Pope Francis and Human Trafficking


We don’t think anyone should be trafficked as a sex slave. We don’t think anyone should be trafficked as a slave for any purpose.

We do think those who are trafficked deserve and should receive the support of the moral leaders on the planet.

We believe these moral leaders should do everything within their considerable powers to end human trafficking including calling a spade a spade.

Pope Francis met with victims of human trafficking and went to the human trafficking conference to deliver remarks to those attending the two day international conference of religious and law enforcement leaders held at the Vatican.

He has declared human trafficking to be a “crime against humanity. “ And so, it is.

News story links, Washington Post, Vatican Radio, Catholic Herald, UK:




What astounds us is that the rape and sodomy of children by Roman Catholic priests and nuns is not so definitively declared to be a crime by the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

What, in heaven’s name, does he think the bundling up of altar boys and trooping them off to beach houses to be passed around for molestation by groups of priests is if not human trafficking?

Even without the trooping around and passing around, what is the corrupt invoking of the approval of Almighty God used by religious authority figures against these children, if not a twisted weapon of slavery?

What is the corrupt invoking of the fear of Almighty God as a silencer if not a weapon to enslave these children?

What is the meaning of not rebuking the Italian bishops for agreeing to a document that says they don’t have to report sexual abuse and letting stand the president of the Italian Bishops Conference statement that they did this to “protect” victims?

Also, not to be missed is this nugget from newly minted Cardinal Vincent Nichols of the United Kingdom (the Bishops Conference of England and Wales was an organizer of the conference from the Vatican Radio report:

Asked what for him was the most shocking aspect of what the victims of human trafficking have to endure, the Cardinal replied: “the utter sense of darkness” in which the victims live and “the depth of empathy” they have for all the other victims still being held as slaves. Hello, have you met any victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy and nuns and their brothers and sisters in other religious denominations? All popes have a pulpit on the world stage but this pope has pulpit of immense proportions.

The one place that he has absolute authority, — not moral suasion, not suggestion, not a “let me be a model for you” clout, — absolute authority — is over priests, bishops, cardinals, curia officials, and members of religious orders of priests and sisters.

Bishops aren’t recognized as bishops in the Roman Catholic Church without a piece of paper with a pope’s signature on it naming the man as a bishop. Cardinals don’t become cardinals without being selected by a pope. Priests aren’t ordained unless the Vatican says they are, and they remain priests until the Vatican says they aren’t, religious orders are either approved or not approved by the Vatican. All of this stays spinning because a pope sits on the chair of St. Peter.

Taking moral stands on the issues of the day and using the considerable force of the papacy to drive points home is what power is for – it derives from the Godhead and is to be used for good.

When in God’s name will it be used by a pope to save the children that are counted as part of its 1.2 billion population from predator priests and nuns and non-accountable hierarchy?

This does not happen by a pope setting up a commission, defensively declaring his institution as being picked on, or by declaring that human trafficking is a crime.

The elephant continues to own the room and it gets uglier and bigger by the day.

— Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition, KristineWard @hotmail.com

Special Notes


 Hats off to all in Pennsylvania who worked hard to get bills for strengthened mandated reporter requirements regarding sexual abuse to the governor’s desk. The governor is expected to sign the bills.

Here’s the link:


New York

Maybe the pain of having a legislature turn on you when you thought you had a “done deal” will boost Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s empathy for sexual abuse victims – they suffered the same fate with legislators in Ohio who did an about face on statute of limitation reform after being leaned upon by the bishops of Ohio.

Here’s the link to Cardinal Dolan’s venting:



A grateful salute to Kansas City police detective Maggie McGuire for her work on the Shawn Ratigan child pornography case. We remind our readers that convicted Bishop Robert Finn remains the sitting bishop with jurisdictional authority in the Diocese of Kansas City- St. Joseph, Missouri. “Blistering” remarks were made at the award ceremony about Bishop Finn.

Here’s the link:


— Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Commission, (NSAC) KristineWard@hotmail.com

The Money Anger


We hope with all our hearts that the aggravation and outrage that Catholics have poured into emails, letters and any other avenues of speaking up and out they used in Atlanta are the beginning and not the end of their involvement in what ails the Roman Catholic Church.

In a statement describing his ineptness, Atlanta’s Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, caught in his plush plans for a $2.2 million residence, backed down saying:

“While my advisers and I were able to justify this project fiscally, logistically and practically, I personally failed to project the cost in terms of my own integrity and pastoral credibility with the people of God of north and central Georgia,” he wrote. “I failed to consider the impact on the families throughout the archdiocese who, though struggling to pay their mortgages, utilities, tuition and other bills, faithfully respond year after year to my pleas to assist with funding our ministries and services.

First off, if these “advisers” really did provide these kinds of justifications they should be fired.

Secondly, Archbishop Gregory’s apology should not be limited to the Catholics of central and north Georgia. All Catholics are hurt by his actions. Just as they are by the actions of the bishop of bling in Germany, the Archbishop of Newark John J. Myers’ weekend and planned retirement $800,000 home, as well as the Camden’s Bishop Dennis Sullivan’s $500,000 home and Archbishop of Cincinnati Dennis Schnurr’s half million home – and the list, of course, doesn’t stop there.

This planned opulence prior to Pope Francis, during Pope Francis and after Pope Francis is not the message of the Gospel.

So how is it that the “teachers” can’t get the lesson plan right from the basic text which would, of course, be the Scripture?

It is disappointing to see Catholics get their backs up in large numbers over money but not children — but at this stage in this long running crisis we’ll take it and hope it can be a building block.

We hope with all our hearts that these Catholics can see their way clear to take their aggravation and turn it into action so that children can be protected from rape and sodomy and that those who cover up the criminal actions of priests and nuns who rape and sodomize children are held accountable.

If their aggravation and displeasure can only encompass the money items, then we hope with all our hearts they can use the money door to get involved to end the sexual abuse crisis in the Church because, indeed, plenty of money is being spent by the Church on attorneys’ fees and public relations to keep from holding the hierarchy responsible for crimes.

If Catholics can only get aggravated in large and productive numbers about money and bishops’ homes then hopefully the Catholics of the Atlanta Archdiocese will send letters in the fine tradition of St. Paul to the Newark Archdiocese’s Bishop John Myers who also lost his “pastoral” perspective.

Maybe in so doing, they will have a road to Damascus experience that will lead them to an uproar for the children’s sake.

We would hope for fraternal correction from Archbishop Gregory to his “brother” Archbishop Myers but this is the same Archbishop Gregory, who as the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) who in 2004 characterized the crisis as “history.”

We’d rather put our hope where there is more than a snowball’s chance in hell for it.

— Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC) Kristineward@hotmail.com

 Media Statement

Regarding Vatican Announcement of Sexual Abuse Commission Members

 March 22,2014

 We wish anyone well who is willing to try and convince Pope Francis that strong and decisive action both against perpetrators and enablers of perpetrators is what it will take to end the sexual abuse crisis and protect children.

Only strong action will count not a ton of meetings and speeches and reports from a commission.

This is not a difficult subject to grasp. The rape and sodomy of children is a crime. People who rape and sodomize children are criminals. People who protect people who rape and sodomize children are criminals.

You can “get it” as the Vatican now says it does but “getting it” is not an accomplishment, getting rid of it is.

Let’s face it, it didn’t take a commission for Pope Francis to remove a German Bishop who built himself a luxury palace. Convicted Bishop Robert Finn remains the head of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph, Missouri.

Pope Francis played defense in his recent interview about the crisis. If he and the  commission aren’t going to play offense, the game ought to be called off now before a  dollar or a euro goes into meetings and reports.

Representation is crucial. The commission should be weighted in favor of survivors and whistleblowers. Survivors should certainly have more than a one eighth voice. They bear all the suffering, not just one eighth of it.

The commission is heavily Europe weighted. Europe’s a fine place and the European commission members may be fine people but where are the multiple seats for United States, the country that set off the major illumination for Catholics about this scandal in Boston in 2002? Where are the seats for Australia where a royal commission on abuse is seated and developments unfold by the day?

Credibility is needed. To get there those responsible for the cover-up need to be held accountable – no matter who they are: bishops, cardinals, pope, curia and chancery officials.

Game playing must end. Putting priests who have abused on a “prayer and penance” list in order to continue paying them isn’t strong and decisive action. We point to the recent action taken in the case of  Monsignor Daniel Pater of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and a former member of the Vatican diplomatic corps. He is neither old nor ill but the Vatican’s resolution of his case, after the Church’s 21 years of knowledge of the abuse,   is he’s on the prayer and penance list.

We extend our concern and support to the survivors of sexual abuse around the globe as this development grabs headlines.

— Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC) KristineWard@hotmail.com 937-272-0308

National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC) is an all volunteer organization,(based in Dayton, Ohio, United States), of in-the-pew Catholics and men and women of goodwill working to educate society regarding sexual abuse to increase protection for children, seek legislative changes, and promote justice for survivors of sexual abuse.  



For immediate release: Wednesday,   March 12, 2014   Two more   groups want Cardinal uninvited   Controversial prelate to preside at special   mass   Concerned Catholics feel that “sends   the wrong message   “It encourages future cover ups &   hurts victims,” they say   Two more organizations   are urging New York Archbishop Tim Dolan to stop his predecessor from   presiding this weekend at a special mass featuring children’s   choirs.   This Saturday, retired New York   Cardinal Edward Egan is to preside over a children’s choir mass featuring 200   youngsters at St. Ignatius Loyola parish in Manhattan. Long secret church   records show that Egan hid clergy sex crimes during his long tenure in the   Bridgeport diocese and he is accused of doing the same in the New York   archdiocese.   Because of that, leaders of the   National Survivor Advocate Coalition and the Bridgeport chapter of Voice of   the Faithful want Cardinal Timothy Dolan to oust Egan from the upcoming event.   Leaders of a victims group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused   by Priests, made the same request yesterday.   http://www.snapnetwork.org/ny_retired_cardinal_to_preside_at_special_mass_snap_responds   http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20140311/abuse-survivors-group-wants-egan-mass-for-youths-canceled   This sends the wrong message and   hurts already suffering victims and betrayed Catholics,” said Jamie   Dance (jamie.dance@sbcglobal.net,   203-801-9532) who heads the Bridgeport chapter of Voice of the Faithful   (VOTF). “It encourages future cover ups by saying ‘no matter how much you   endanger children you can still be rewarded.”   “Retired Cardinals should have a lot   of time to think. We think Cardinal Egan should think about what he can do to   end the crisis not add to it,” said Kristine Ward (kristineward@hotmail.com, 937 272 0308),   who chairs the National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC). How about Cardinal Dolan invite   Archbishop Diamund Martin from Dublin to say this Mass? At least, he’s   tried to cast out the snakes of sexual abuse instead of whitewash it. It   would be a far better St. Patrick’s Day message for these young people   than honoring Egan would. ”   In 2009, the New York Times reported   that “In one case, then-Bishop Egan kept an accused abuser working for five   years after receiving a warning and did not suspend him until after a lawsuit   was filed. In another, the diocese did not report potential allegations of   statutory rape of a teenager impregnated by a priest.”   http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/14/opinion/his-eminence-in-denial.html?action=click&module=Search&region=searchResults%230&version=&url=http%3A%2F%2Fquery.nytimes.com%2Fsearch%2Fsitesearch%2F%3Faction%3Dclick%26region%3DMasthead%26pgtype%3DHomepage%26module%3DSearchSubmit%26contentCollection%3DHomepage%26t%3Dqry183%23%2F%2522cardinal%2Bedward%2Began%2522%2F&_r=0   In 2002, the Hartford Courant   reported that “Secret court documents reveal that New York Cardinal Edward   Egan, while serving as bishop of the Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocese,   allowed several priests facing multiple accusations of sexual abuse to   continue working for years. Egan failed   to investigate aggressively some abuse allegations, did not refer complaints   to criminal authorities and, during closing testimony in 1999, suggested that   a dozen people who made complaints of rape, molestation and beatings against   the same priest may all have been lying, the documents show.”   http://www.snapnetwork.org/news/otherstates/NY_Egan_Under_Fire.htm   http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2009/11_12/2009_12_01_Altimari_CardinalEdward.htm   As recently as 2012, discussing the   abuse and cover up crisis, Egan said “I don’t think we did anything wrong,”   “I’m very proud of how this thing was handled,” “I believe the sex abuse thing   was incredibly good,” “There really wasn’t much . . .  hidden” and “I do   think it’s time to get off this subject.”   http://www.connecticutmag.com/Connecticut-Magazine/Web-Exclusive-Content/February-2012/Egan-Ten-Years-After/   The event will be at Church of St.   Ignatius Loyola, 980 Park Avenue at 84th Street (212-288-3588,www.stignatiusloyola.org).        Here is the exact wording and website   link from last Sunday’s parish bulletin:   Welcome Cardinal Egan! On Saturday,   March 15th, the St. Ignatius Loyola Children’s Choir will be hosting the Pueri   Cantores Children’s Choir Festival for 200+ choristers from the Tri-state   area. The day’s festivities will culminate in singing at the 5:30 PM Mass.   Edward Cardinal Egan will preside. The prelude, featuring participating   choirs, begins at 5:00 PM.   http://www.stignatiusloyola.org/pdf/bulletins/1314/03092014SIL.pdf    The St. Ignatius pastor is Father   George Witt (wittg@stignatiusloyola.org). The   associate pastors are Fr. William Bergen (bergenw@saintignatiusloyola.org),   Fr. Thomas Feely (feelyt@saintignatiusloyola.org)   and Fr. Ugo Nacciarone (nacciaroneu@saintignatiusloyola.org) (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 15,000 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) Contact:

David   Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell,


True Colors


Pope Francis waited as long as he could – especially when courage was not the option he would choose.

From the beginning he kept his distance, even when pushed by the phantom commission of one of the Council of Eight Cardinals, Sean O’Malley — especially when the survivors were not the ones around whom he would circle the wagons.

He waited as long as he could to address sexual abuse – especially since his personality and style reviews have been boffo.

But he must be given this, he does have a sense of timing.

At the one year mark, he knew the string had run out.

It was just a matter of how to do it.

He chose to walk into his declaration of how the largest crisis in the Roman Catholic Church in 500 years will be handled in his papacy through the lead of a reporter’s question – and he was smart enough to let the reporter shape the backdrop against which he spoke.

Here is the excerpt from the English translation of the interview Pope Francis gave to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera:

Question: The scandals that rocked the life of the Church are fortunately in the past. A public appeal was made to you, on the delicate theme of the abuse of minors, published by (the Italian newspaper) Il Foglio and signed by Besancon and Scruton, among others, that you would raise your voice and make it heard against the fanaticisms and the bad conscience of the secularized world that hardly respects infancy.

Answer: I want to say two things. The cases of abuses are terrible because they leave extremely deep wounds. Benedict XVI was very courageous and he cleared a path. The Church has done so much on this path. Perhaps more than anyone. The statistics on the phenomenon of the violence against children are shocking, but they also show clearly that the great majority of abuses take place in the family environment and around it. The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No other has done

Like it or not, and in this space we do not like it, he is clear: he has chosen clerics over children.

The Church is the victim, unfairly attacked and, and doesn’t have as many perpetrators “as the family environment and around it” has.

There you have it.

The wait is over.

We are not as bad as them. That’s the answer from the man who has unfettered power in the Roman Catholic Church.

When a blind spot becomes the full windshield through which the road is seen, when the elephant in the room is given permanent residence, when the third papacy since the Boston incarnation of the scandal’s revelations decides that the status quo will be the status, then style has triumphed substance and we have all arrived back where we began – in the same ongoing crucifixion of innocence.

In light of this, we ask that you re-double your efforts in any and all areas in which you support survivors.

The need is great.

The time is now.

The cavalry is not coming.

— Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition, NSAC, KristineWard@hotmail.com

Here is the link to the full transcript:


A Novel Approach for Twin Cities: Punish those responsible

One way to sometimes stop people from doing wrong is to punish them for doing wrong. History, psychology and common sense all suggest this approach often works.

But tragically, Catholic officials virtually never use this approach when shocking revelations of clergy sex abuse and cover-up surface.

It’s an approach that St. Paul-Minneapolis Catholic officials might consider as they try to save themselves and their archdiocese from a rapidly expanding scandal that has put dozens of accused clerics in the news over the last few months and several other church staff who reportedly kept quiet about or hid their alleged sexual misbehavior.

When we say “Catholic officials,” we are largely referring to Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché, who is now in charge of the Twin Cities archdiocese. Archbishop John Nienstedt has stepped aside while an allegation of child sexual abuse against him is investigated.

When it comes to wrongdoers who merit punishment, the St. Paul-Minneapolis church hierarchy has lots of choices.

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There’s Fr. Kevin McDonough. Instead of calling police about suspicions of child sex crimes, Fr. McDonough asked a priest who had lots of pornography to turn over his computer to a church staffer. Fr. McDonough should be punished for simply not calling the police.

There’s Fr. Jonathan Shelley. After being asked to turn over his computer, Fr. Shelley reportedly destroyed it. He should be punished for insubordination.

There’s Fr. Peter Laird, until recently Niensedt’s vicar general. Fr. Laird told a concerned colleague to put computer discs with Fr. Shelley’s pornography back in the chancery basement. Fr. Laird should be punished for not heeding his colleague’s warnings that some of the images were child pornography and for not calling police.

Police asked church officials for a report on Fr. Shelley’s porn that the archdiocese’s investigator compiled but were rebuffed. Those church officials should be punished for refusing to help law enforcement.

There’s Tom Wieser, Nienstedt’s lawyer. In court, Wieser blasted whistleblower Jennifer Haselberger, calling her “disgruntled,” “imprudent” and “unsophisticated.” He should be punished. (Church officials can defend themselves without attacking others.)

There’s Jim Accurso, the archdiocese’s chief public relations man. Accurso said he thinks a proven and suspended predator priest, Fr. Robert Kapoun, is being supervised. But days earlier, Fr. Kapoun publicly admitted that he “rarely sees anyone from the archdiocese.” Accurso should be punished for being deceptive.

There’s Greta Sawyer, the so-called “victims’ advocate” for the archdiocese. She recorded an interview with someone Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer allegedly abused before the police had talked to the young man, according to Minnesota Public Radio. Sawyer should be punished for potentially interfering with a police investigation.

Sawyer also put a young woman who reported being molested by a priest in the same room with that priest, Fr. Michael Keating, along with Archbishop Harry Flynn, Fr. McDonough and a lawyer, Andrew Eisenzimmer, who “lobbed questions as though it were a game of pinball,” the woman said. Sawyer should be punished for that, too.

There are several archdiocesan officials who in recent years approved the filing of court papers seeking tens of thousands of dollars from two abuse victims who sued but lost on technicalities. Those officials should be punished for such mean-spirited maneuvers.

There’s now-retired Archbishop Flynn, Archbishop Nienstedt’s predecessor. Archbishop Flynn was in charge in 2004 when the disturbing photos were found on Fr. Shelley’s laptop. Even though an investigator the archdiocese hired said some of the images were “borderline” illegal, neither Archbishop Flynn nor his staff contacted the police. The archdiocesan leadership should punish Archbishop Flynn.

Sound implausible? Last year, the sitting Los Angeles archbishop did precisely this to his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony, after Cardinal Mahony’s complicity in child sex cases surfaced through litigation.

Some might pejoratively call these measures punitive. We disagree. These moves are primarily about prevention, not punishment. If deliberate wrongdoing isn’t punished, it’s basically encouraged. And it will be repeated.

There is, however, a difference between punishing and scapegoating. The Twin Cities church hierarchy should denounce, demote, discipline and perhaps even set the defrocking process in motion for some of its clergy and take action against some of its lay employees. But any such action will ring hollow and seem hypocritical unless Archbishop Nienstedt is also punished for his role in all of this.

A fish rots from the head down. Ultimately, Archbishop Nienstedt and Bishop Piché are themselves responsible for continuing, or perhaps even deepening, the well-established but hurtful patterns of secrecy and self-preservation that have long been the hallmarks of the Catholic hierarchy’s handling of sexual misconduct by its own.

[Kristine Ward is the chair of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition. David Clohessy is the director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.]

Frontline: Secrets of the Vatican

Frontline: Secrets of the Vatican (PBS)

We are pleased to present the New Orleans Times Picayune’s recent Q and A with Jason Berry, co-producer of this PBS Frontline special.
— Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition

Dave Walker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune By Dave Walker, NOLA.com | The Times-PicayuneThe Times-Picayune

Tuesday’s (Feb. 25) episode of PBS’ “Frontline” unravels “Secrets of the Vatican” in a spellbinding 90-minute episode airing at 8 p.m. on WYES. New Orleans author Jason Berry (“Lead Us Not Into Temptation,” “Vows of Silence,” “Render Unto Rome”) is co-producer of the episode, which details some of the issues — clergy sex abuse, corruption at the Vatican Bank, the Vatileaks corruption exposes — that scandalized Benedict XVI’s papacy.

It also paints a grim picture of the challenges facing Benedict’s successor, Pope Francis.

Berry’s investigative reporting of the Catholic Church dates to 1992’s “Lead Us Not Into Temptation,” the first extensive account of sexual abuse of children by priests. His 2004 book “Vows of Silence,” written with co-author Gerald Renner, explored the sexual abuses of Mexican priest and Legion of Christ founder Marcial Maciel, and was also adapted into a documentary film of the same title. In 2011’s “Render Unto Rome,” Berry, a practicing Catholic, critically examined the church’s handling of its finances. Berry was also interviewed for Alex Gibney’s documentary “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God,” which detailed alleged sexual abuse by Lawrence Murphy, a priest at Milwaukee’s St. John’s School for the Deaf. “Mea Maxima Culpa” aired last year on HBO.

Here’s an edited email Q&A with Berry about Tuesday’s “Frontline: Secrets of the Vatican:”

Q: You’re credited as co-producer. What was your role? When did the work start? Was the final product what the project set out to be?

A: “Frontline” chose a renowned English director, Antony Thomas. One of the researchers contacted me about the time of the papal conclave last March. She’d seen an interview I did at St. Peter’s Square on the BBC, and had read my book “Render unto Rome.” She sent some questions, and we spoke by phone. Antony contacted me in early July and asked me to collaborate with him. He wanted my help on the sequence about Fr. Maciel and on episodes to film in the U.S. I sent a memo on that, outlining key American stories, how they connected to the Vatican episodes Antony’s team had researched.

I spent most of July and August going back and forth with him on research and scenario issues. We met in Boston in late August with the crew, filmed there, in Connecticut, New York and Milwaukee over several weeks. As Antony got into the editing several weeks later we had continuous emails and calls right up to the fine-cut edit last week. The film does closely track his treatment, though several strands had to be cut. This often happens in documentaries even with powerful material.

What’s new here? What’s new here for viewers familiar with your work and the coverage by others of these issues? What’s new here for people who haven’t followed the story?

Well, the film takes viewers into the Vatican’s baroque internal dynamics, and the infighting under Pope Benedict that exploded in the Vatican Bank and Vatileaks scandals. No TV network outside of Italy has covered those complex stories in much detail, and few newspapers in much depth. Viewers will get a clear story of the last pope betrayed by his own bureaucracy. Antony’s treatment of the gay priest culture in the Vatican — an explosive topic to be sure — is nuanced and even-handed, certainly not homophobic. The early episodes that deal with the Maciel case, and the Milwaukee archdiocesan bankruptcy, to stave off abuse victims’ claims, have gotten media attention as you note, but I think our handling of the people enmeshed in these numbing dramas will convey the scope of the crisis, all the way back to Rome. These issues are continuing, though daily media coverage tends to wax and wane.

In your experience, are there still Catholics who would be surprised by the stories addressed in this “Frontline” – the sexual abuse, the Vatican corruption, the accounting and legal thuggery? Is there a sequence you would single out as most powerful?

Many Catholics want these issues to go away. I certainly do. But when you see the stories of people in the middle of the mire, right there on television, it has a striking immediacy. Yes, I think some people will be surprised by what the Vatican internal culture is like and the callous treatment of victims in Milwaukee. The abuse cover-ups will continue in the legal arena until the Vatican creates its own legal system closer to Western jurisprudence. As for powerful sequences, the Vatican Bank section is documentary narrative at its best; but I suspect the Milwaukee story will linger long in people’s minds.

Jason Berry.NOLA.com archives

The first-hand accounts of abuse in this film reminded me of “Mea Maxima Culpa.” What has been the reaction to your participation in that project? What kinds of things do you hear from people about your work, both in print and in documentaries?

As for “Mea Maximan Culpa,” Alex Gibney wove the Maciel story into a larger report on the Vatican’s role in the abuse crisis; Alex is a remarkable filmmaker and treated me well in my participation. I sense that most people who saw that film felt, as I do, that his handling of the deaf men in Wisconsin gave a terrible beauty to that account of the trampling of innocence. I did hear from people about the segment I was in, one strand among many.

Antony took a different approach in the Legion sequence, giving focus to Maciel’s son, Raul. I hired a cameraman and interviewed Raul several years ago when he was in America, after my own film, “Vows of Silence” was in distribution, thinking I might somehow update it. Instead, he speaks in this film. Every time I meet someone like Raul, I think, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

I suspect that the responses to “Secrets of the Vatican” will echo what I’ve heard in the past — people expressing surprise, regret, support or praise for getting the story out there. I don’t get many personal attacks any more. Even archconservatives tend to recognize that the problem is the power structure. When the Legion of Christ disclosed that their late founder, Maciel, had children in 2009, I received apologies from several Legion insiders. That surprised me, given how aggressively they had attacked me, and my late coauthor Gerald Renner, on the “Vows of Silence” book. I wish Renner, a prince of a friend, had been around to receive those apologies.

What is it like when work you have done over many years is adapted by other documentarians?

I’ve learned not to be too subjective when professionals of high caliber want to use my work. You have to give the other director his latitude. A book can go many fathoms deeper. A film has to synthesize and spotlight certain people, certain strands. Tim Watson of Ariel Montage in New Orleans was my editor on “Vows of Silence.” We were practically joined at the hip the last six months before the 2008 launch. Tim knows the Maciel story inside-out, and often sends me news items that I haven’t seen. When films of this kind come along he and I get together for a debriefing, usually with bourbon. Film reaches so many more people than the printed word, and if a given documentary is in the right hands, you learn not to worry, despite the surprises that pop up in any production. Working with Antony Thomas, I must say, was a superb experience. He’s a true artist of nonfiction filmmaking. His Darwin film (“Questioning Darwin”) has been airing on HBO the last week or so.

Does the fact that Francis is an “outsider” give you hope for reform? Or the opposite? There are some ominous concluding notes in this film. Do you actually fear for his safety?

I do have hope for Francis. He is a major presence on the international stage, saying things no president or prime minister will about the gross inequities of our time. A pope reminding us that poor people are not the enemy, but those to whom we are obliged. He’s speaking truth to the power of a ghastly international banking system. Francis has likened the Vatican court-like mentality to a form of leprosy. The real question is whether he can forge a new system of justice for the Vatican. The canon law tribunals run by cardinals, always forgiving cardinals, are archaic and unable to prosecute bishops or religious superiors for negligence. Changing that ancient system is the pope’s challenge. I know certain people advising Francis, not well, but enough to get background interviews.

As for ominous notes near the end, the inference by one interviewee that the Mafia might assassinate a pope because of money-laundering reforms at the Vatican Bank has to be taken with a grain of salt. International consulting firms are going through those accounts; the bank has been awash in favoritism from Italian clerics to relatives and friends of friends. Cardinal Tarscio Bertone, the former Secretary of State, resisted halting that. Benedict’s great mistake was not firing Bertone. I think anyone watching this film will understand why. Well, Francis replaced Bertone. I think it would be hard for any future pope to go back to the Italian ward-heeler mentality that pervaded the bank until Benedict, to his credit, established a reform commission four years ago. The pity is that Bertone didn’t back him up.

The UN Report


Even when the survivors catch a break – and catch a big one they did in the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Report – they still can’t catch a break.

First, the break they caught: for the first time, on a major international scale the world has heard what the victims have been saying for years. That’s historic. The David of Truth has slain the Goliath of the Code of Silence.

For that, the survivors deserve an immense amount of credit.

It’s only through the courage, the perseverance, and the suffering of the survivors that the people in the pews and the world at large have learned of the extent of this largest crisis in the Roman Catholic Church in 500 years.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child Report is described in news reports as “scathing,” and “blistering” against the Vatican regarding sexual abuse.

The Church is called out on a global stage for its “code of silence” and the upholding of the Church’s reputation and the protection of the perpetrators over concern for and action on behalf of children — the victims.

Here are links to news coverage of the UN Report:




Within the Los Angeles Times report is the UN Document.

The report did call for the “immediate removal of all known and suspected child abuses” from their positions and the referring of the matters to law enforcement for prosecution

The report did acknowledge the cover –up by the hierarchy

What it did not do is call for the removal, immediate or otherwise, of those who covered up from their positions of authority and esteem in the Church or the entry of law enforcement to investigate them.

We ask our readers to act and re-double efforts as citizens to be heard at every level of government in the United States, at the federal level in the US Departments of Justice and State, the Congress, State Legislatures and School Boards to move the fight forward to protect children and open wide the opportunities for access to justice to survivors.

This doesn’t stop at the borders. Perpetrators have been allowed to slip through the borders and be shielded from extradition when identified.

Citizen action is needed and necessary to spur independent investigations by law enforcement of perpetrators and those who aided and abetted them in the rape and sodomy of children and the victimization of children through pornography, along with the passage of laws to extend the statute of limitations for the prosecution of sexual abuse. We think Catholics can and should find the impetus for this in their faith.

This also doesn’t stop at the borders. American voices are needed in the international struggle for the protection of children and justice for the survivors.

We ask and urge our readers and all men and women of goodwill  to re-double their efforts in whatever they are doing to support survivors: making financial contributions, writing letters to the editor, contacting government officials, legislators, demonstrating, leafleting, listening and raising the issue of the horrors of the rape and sodomy of children in every arena, setting, interaction, network and media available to them.

Because, important as the UN Report is, the break the survivors didn’t catch is this: After all that courage in a struggle that the survivors have borne virtually alone the UN chose to link the hot button issues of the Roman Catholic Church to this report: abortion, homosexuality, same sex marriage and gender identification in the Church’s Canon law.


What the UN Committee did was open the drawbridge on the moat it sought to create through the Protection of the Child Treaty and allow the Vatican to scream – and be heard – on the cries of bias, discrimination, and interference in its internal religious affairs.  These only balloon the Church’s deflect and dodge strategy regarding the crime of sexual abuse.

One has to wonder why the UN Committee chose to step into these low-lying religious- fruit arenas when it left out concern for children and what the Vatican could do through both its more-than bully pulpit and its nuncio structure. Nor did it mention its bishops conferences regarding the effect on children of hunger caused by uneven food supplies,  national immigration policies, child labor policies and educational systems that cost too much for all children to enroll or which discriminate against them by gender. Nor did they point out wars among all the other dangers that children face and need to be protected from throughout the world.

The UN Committee had to see the Church’s response coming when it included allowing abortion in its report that the greatest danger to a child is to be killed.

In the most measured Vatican response in the news reports, the Vatican’s new Secretary of State Pietro Paroling says the Vatican will provide a detailed response to the UN report. We hope so.

In responding, we hope the Church peels away hypocrisy, deflection, and puffery on the meager steps it has taken and finally gets down to business – the business of protecting the vulnerable, the children.

It doesn’t take a commission for the Church to do what is right regarding the sexual abuse of children and minors by priests and nuns and the cover-up of the abuse by the hierarchy and chancery and curia officials.

All Pope Francis and the Vatican structure need to combat sexual abuse are the Scriptures and the will to combat it.

The first component the Vatican has in abundance, in big books, little books, books in every language, beautifully decorated books, plain books, and digital books.

The second component is the sticking point.

Does Pope Francis have the will to remove hierarchs who have covered up the rape and sodomy of children, protected perpetrators, and allowed child pornographers to continue victimizing children?

Does he have the will to make it clear by action and not just words that without a shadow of a doubt that the rape and sodomy of children and minors – and the victimizing of children through pornography and sex trafficking by clerics, nuns, and hierarchs — and the protection thereof is cause for immediate dismissal from the ranks of the priesthood and religious orders?

To whom much is given, much is expected.

— Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC) KristineWard@hotmail.com

Lowering the Bar in Minnesota

First, the news out of Minneapolis hurts survivors.  We want them to know their pain is known and acknowledged.

The Archbishop of Minneapolis-St. Paul and Archdiocesan officials have been let off the hook and will not be charged with any responsibility for not stopping  a priest  now convicted and serving a prison sentence on sexual abuse charges.

The Archdiocese is “grateful”  to be “cleared.”

The Archdiocese’s records show that the Archdiocese had knowledge going back to 2008 regarding the sexual addiction and solicitation activities of this priest — and the Archdiocese gave him 28 hours of potential running and destruction of evidence time in a coming arrest alert regarding the charges for which he is now serving time.

Still, the police said they do not have the evidence to charge anyone in the Archdiocese of obstruction of justice or any complicity in the crimes.

Here are news stories with the details that there will not be charges along with the official statement of the Archdiocese:




The police are “troubled” about the Archdiocesan officials and their actions or inaction.

So are we, but we don’t have subpoena power, calling grand jury power or issuing search warrant power like the police and county attorney and courts do.

Is there no law in Minnesota  under which people who know that a person has and likely will continue to abuse children and minors can be held responsible for aiding this person — by the advance notice on an arrest? By promoting the person to pastor in 2009 and giving him a position of authority and respect
when the records show that trouble existed and was known in 2008?


Could Minnesota’s laws be this thin?

Child pornography charges will not be brought against anyone in the Archdiocese in the case of another priest  involving sexually explicit images found on the priest’s computer.

There is not enough evidence, the authorities said, to bring charges against anyone in Archdiocesan positions.

Is there any willingness to put muscle into the investigations of officials who were publicly accused by the police chief of dragging their collective feet in reporting abuse and providing information to the police? Aren’t there usually reasons for foot dragging that basically don’t include coming clean with the facts and responsibility?

Surely, this is not the standard of the people of the communities of Minnesota.

The statement of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul says this:

We have a shared interest with all civil authorities and our communities for the protection of
children, and we remain in complete solidarity with both Ramsey County Attorney John Choi and Saint Paul Police Department Chief Tom Smith in calling for all victims of any form of abuse to immediately come forward to civil authorities.

Victims of any form of abuse should come forward. Indeed, they should be encouraged to do that and supported when they do.  But, given the lack of charges against the Archdiocese, what are the odds any victim of sexual abuse would come forward now?

These public proclamations now calling for victims to come forward smack of the beguiling witch opening the door for Hansel and Gretal.

The message that is being sent is clear: cover-up, foot drag, and protect predators, obfuscate in any and all manners possible, when caught, spin apologetic, and continue to cover-up, foot drag and obfuscate, shell-game-it to get over the fine points in the law to skirt responsibility – never allow the standard to be used to judge you to be the same  depth of standard that you purport preach, teach, and uphold.

Notice the Archdiocese’s statement did not say that despite the absence of charges that it must and would declare itself and its officials complicit. That it must and would declare its overwhelming failure beginning with the resignation of the Archbishop because any institution that stood and defined itself as a force for truth and justice, valued and taught the protection of the innocent and the vulnerable, could do no less.

Are there any law enforcement officials in Minnesota willing to look at the laws again?

Are there any legislators in Minnesota willing to muscle up the laws if they really are this thin?

Or will the bar remain lowered so far that it is confused with the dirt it lies in?

— Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC) KristineWard@hotmail.com

The Chicago Document Release


First and foremost, we believe it is important to profoundly thank the survivors who had the mettle and the courage and determination to push for the document release that the Archdiocese of Chicago was court ordered to turn over.

Cardinal Francis George did not voluntarily give up one sheet of paper on the 30 priests whose files were released.

No letter writing campaign or website statement or any mushing of the facts changes that: this was a court ordered release.

The truth is in the documents.

That is why they are so vital.

That’s also why Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops fight so hard through highly paid and high-powered attorneys to keep them from going public.

What is in the documents – those released on the 30 priests in Chicago and in the few other document releases that have occurred — was known to the Cardinals, Archbishop, Bishops – any hierarch with access to his own diocese’s files – at any time of the day, week, month, or year that this crisis has existed.

And make no mistake about it — this crisis existed before newspaper stories were written about it and television and radio broadcasts aired about it, and columnists wrote about it,  or lawyers litigated it.

Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops and Popes knew about it. It’s as simple as that.

What is in the documents could have been the underpinning of real reform in June 2002 or months or years or decades before that — or any day since.

There was never any day of the week, or any month of any year that it was okay for a priest to rape or sodomize a child.

There was never any day of the week or any month of any year that it was okay for any Cardinal or Archbishop or Bishop or any priest personnel director to find ways to protect priests who raped and sodomized children and who groomed them to lure them into situations where they could rape and sodomize children.

The representatives of the Vatican said last week in Geneva before the UN Committee on the Protection of the Child that there were “no excuses” for the sexual abuse crisis.

Cardinal George in his letters and statements disagrees.

He has excuses: bad vetting by a dead Cardinal Archbishop, evolving understanding of sexual abuse and other social ills, including domestic violence, and date rape —  and old age –  it’s all old news.

We encourage NSAC News subscribers to read the documents – and to encourage their family and friends to read the documents.

The files can be found through the good efforts of the record keepers at Bishop Accountability on its website: www.bishopaccountability,org.   You will find them in a link at the top right in the “Chicago New” file.

The documents are categorized on Attorney Jeff Anderson’s firm’s website and can be access through this link http://www.andersonadvocates.com/Archdiocese-of-Chicago-Documents.aspx  This link also includes depositions by Cardinal George and Bishop Raymond Goerdert.

One of the categories on this site is titled” Cardinal George’s Knowledge of Abusive Priests”

A few points to keep in mind while reading the documents and discussing them:

  • There are no files in the release      regarding Daniel McCormack who was arrested and convicted on Cardinal      George’s watch. They are sealed by the court because of other cases
  • There are 35 other known priests      of the Archdiocese of Chicago who are credibly accused of abuse whose      files are not part of this release of documents.

In addition, we believe it should be noted that the Archdiocese of Chicago felt it should include this statement in its response to Attorney Jeff Anderson’s statement on the document release: The Archdiocese of Chicago is in full compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by the U.S. Bishops in Dallas in June 2002.

The Charter, written and adopted by Bishops – with Cardinal George as its principal author – does not include any provision or sanction or even a slap on the wrist for dealing with Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops who covered up the rape and sodomy of children by priests and who kept the perpetrators in positions of respect and positions of continued access to children.

— Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC) KristineWard@hotmail.com