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Pope’s sex abuse prevention summit won’t address protecting seminarians

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September 14, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis’ sexual abuse prevention summit planned for winter’s end in Rome with the world’s bishops will apparently not address protections for the demographic found in recent months to be at significant risk from sexual predators in the Church: seminarians.

After meeting with his Council of Cardinals this week, Francis summoned all the presidents of the national bishops’ conferences to Rome next February 21-24 to discuss the sex abuse crisis. The memorials of St. Peter Damian, who strongly addressed a similar problem of priestly homosexuality over 900 years ago, in both the old and new liturgical calendars are during the days the bishops will be in Rome.

The pope called the summit with the bishops on the theme of “protection of minors,” according to a Council press release.

At the same time, a Vatican Press Office statement had the theme of the February meeting as the “prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.”

Previous policies put in place to protect minors notwithstanding, it remains to be seen how and whether the Church will effectively, comprehensively police its spiritual fathers who abuse their positions of authority through sexual misconduct with individuals who are legal adults, particularly seminarians and priests.

LifeSiteNews did not hear back by press time on an inquiry to the Vatican Press Office into how “vulnerable adults” will be defined for Francis’ abuse meeting with the bishops.

Who is vulnerable?

The Archbishop Theodore McCarrick scandal has also raised the question of who qualifies as a “vulnerable adult.”

Presently, there is minimal policy and clarity in Church documents on “vulnerable adults” whether at the episcopal national conference or Vatican level – and there exist no provisions for addressing abuse of young men pursuing a vocation to the priesthood.

While the term “vulnerable adult” is defined in the sexual abuse policies of some U.S. dioceses, as Catholic News Agency (CNA) report notes, this would not include seminarians.

A CNA canvas of some dioceses that do address abuse of vulnerable adults in their policies found their criteria for defining a vulnerable adult to include such things as physical, mental, or emotional impairment, disability, or other infirmity rendering a person unable to defend themselves or report abuse on their own.

Specifically, the director of the Archdiocese of New York’s Safe Environment Program Edward Mechmann told CNA that the term “vulnerable adult” as defined in the policy for his archdiocese “would not include seminarians.”

“It is really aimed at protecting people who have developmental disabilities or cognitive disabilities, for instance someone who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease,” Mechmann said, though he added, “A sound diocesan policy, however, would also encompass any kind of non-consensual sexual conduct, even if it is not strictly covered by the Charter.”

The Charter to which Mechmann referred is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

Also known as the Dallas Charter, it’s the U.S. Bishops’ anti-abuse policy developed after the sex abuse scandal first broke in 2002.

Focused on abuse of minors, it does not contain the term “vulnerable adult,” nor does the Vatican’s “Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons.” “Safe Environment” refers to diocesan-level child and youth protection programs.

The Church’s Code of Canon Law likewise does not use or define the term “vulnerable adult,” CNA also notes, though the Church’s 2010 “Norms on delicta graviora(more grave crimes) hold in regard to priestly sex abuse that “a person who habitually lacks the use of reason is to be considered equivalent to a minor.”

McCarrick helped to draft and publicize the U.S. Bishops’ Dallas Charter, which also does not address holding bishops accountable for abuse or its cover-up, outside of “fraternal correction” by fellow bishops.

Sexual abuse victims can be adults, too

Along with the issue of homosexual clergy, the McCarrick sexual abuse scandal has helped reveal that clerical sexual abuse victimization is not limited to minors.

The Church’s abuse statistics have concerned only abuse of minors, and they show the overwhelming majority of clerical sex abuse victims have been post-pubescent males. While these numbers indicate the prevalent homosexual component of the abuse crisis, the studies thus far have not looked at sexual predation toward seminarians.

McCarrick is said to have abused seminarians and young priests for decades – inviting or coercing them to bed, fondling, otherwise abusing, or engaging in sexual acts with them.

Countless reports say that everybody knew about McCarrick’s penchant for young men – a widely-known secret in the Church and media for years that was ignored, covered for, and enabled.

McCarrick’s predation did not impede his rise to the level of cardinal, after having served as a priest and auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York, bishop of Metuchen, N.J., and archbishop of Newark, N.J., before becoming archbishop of Washington, D.C.

McCarrick, finally removed from public ministry in June after credible allegations that he abused a minor, was able to prey upon young men under his authority because he was given cover, and also because no one was willing to speak up, fearing repercussions from blowing the whistle on the well-connected cardinal.

Aside from the abuse itself, the casualties of McCarrick’s legacy include young men leaving the seminary or the priesthood over their abuse experiences.

Homosexual networks in the Church

The McCarrick revelations drew out subsequent similar allegations involving other prelates throughout the summer, indicating more widespread homosexual predation toward seminarians and young priests in the Church, and suggesting systematic enabling of the activity by a long-suspected homosexual network in the Church that reportedly covers for and promotes its own.

Professor Janet Smith, a moral theologian at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, commented on the occurrence of gay networks within the Church’s clergy on social media last month.

“Yes, there are lots of other immoral behaviors – adultery, greed, luxuriousness, clericalism and substance abuse, for instance, that need to be addressed,” she stated, “but first things first.”

“Eradicating the homosexual networks from the Church would do a lot to purging the Church of immoral priests,” said Smith, “and doing so should help us get at the other problems.”

Madison, Wisconsin Bishop Robert Morlino identified this phenomenon as well in a statement last month on the abuse crisis.

“It is time to admit that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord,” Morlino said.

McCarrick is the tip of the iceberg

Father Dariusz Oko, Ph.D., a priest of the Archdiocese of Krakow and Assistant Professor at the John Paul II Pontifical University in Krakow, wrote an essay in 2012 detailing a “huge homosexual underground in the Church.”

Father Oko’s own experience included encountering a homosexual clique obstructing recourse for those abused by homosexual clergy, specifically a homosexual bishop.

Oko subsequently said after the McCarrick revelations that this was only “the tip of the iceberg.”

Among those cases already known is Marcial Maciel, the late founder of the Legionaries of Christ, who was found to have abused several children and adults, including seminarians, over decades.

There was also the late Cardinal Keith O’Brien, former archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, who reportedly took part in predatory sexual conduct with priests and seminarians under his jurisdiction.

Other bishops removed for preying upon young men or boys include Patrick Ziemann of Santa Rosa, California (1999), Juan Carlos Maccarone of Santiago del Estero, Argentina (2005), Georg Müller of Trondheim and Oslo, Norway (2009), Raymond John Lahey of Antigonish, Canada (2009), Roger Vangheluwe of Brughia, Belgium (2010), John C. Favalora of Miami (2010), and Anthony J. O’Connell of Palm Beach, Florida (2010).

It’s everywhere within the Catholic clergy

While it is said the majority of abuse of minors in the Church took place in the past, another aspect of the abuse crisis pertaining to seminarians is that there are more present-day allegations.

Some 50 seminarians in Honduras wrote a letter to their formators this past July complaining of a homosexual network in their seminary.

Three former seminarians in Ireland reported psychological abuse they suffered at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth over the past decade. One alleged he’d been the subject of unwanted homosexual advances

In early August, Peter Mitchell reported sexual advances made to him by a former Lincoln archdiocese vocations director, the late Monsignor Kalin. Mitchell was a seminarian in the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska from 1994 to 1999, who later transferred to Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin. He was laicized in 2017 for breaking his vow of celibacy.

Mitchell’s account was one of “profound discrimination” as a seminarian and priest for being a heterosexual “in an overwhelmingly homosexual environment where sexually active gay priests protected and promoted each other.”

“It is ‘everywhere’ within the Catholic clergy,” Mitchell stated, “but seems to be especially prevalent among priests within the power structure of chanceries, seminaries, and the church’s bureaucracy, up to and including the Holy See, where I served for a brief time in 2008-2009.”

The Diocese of Lincoln has a reputation for orthodoxy, making Mitchell’s testimony even more shocking.

Also in August, a former seminarian named John Monaco reported unwanted homosexual advances and homosexual acts he witnessed in two East Coast seminaries: St. John’s in Brighton, Massachusetts and St. Charles Borromeo seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. 

Accounts of seminarian abuse have continued to surface since the release of the McCarrick allegations in June.

As Catholics wait on Church hierarchy to authentically address the mushrooming clerical sexual abuse crisis, they also await action to protect the young men they turn over to the Church to become the priests of the future.

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