Sex abuse scandals and the Catholic Church

October 5, 2021 | 4:47pm
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Sex abuse scandals and the Catholic Church
October 5, 2021

An independent inquiry into alleged sex abuse of minors by French Catholic priests, deacons and other clergy has found some 216,000 victims of paedophilia from 1950 to 2020, a "massive phenomenon" that was covered up for decades by a "veil of silence."

The landmark report, released Tuesday after two and a half years of investigations, follows widespread outrage over a string of paedophilia claims and prosecutions against Church officials worldwide.

When lay members of the Church such as teachers at Catholic schools are included, the number of child abuse victims climbs to 330,000 over the seven-decade period. — AFP

November 10, 2020

Pope Francis's former envoy to France, Luigi Ventura, goes on trial in Paris for sexual assault following complaints by five men who accused him of groping them during public ceremonies.

The allegations against the 75-year-old Italian-born archbishop caused deep embarrassment for the Vatican, coming in the midst of a slew of revelations about clerical sex abuse that have rocked the Catholic Church.

Ventura was stripped of his diplomatic immunity last year so that he could be put on trial -- a first in the history of the Holy See. — AFP

October 12, 2020

Pope Francis met Monday with Australian Cardinal George Pell, who returned to Rome last month for the first time since being jailed — and then acquitted — on child sex abuse charges.

The Argentine pontiff met with 79-year-old Pell during a private audience, the Vatican said, without providing any further details. — AFP

September 30, 2020

A financial watchdog drafted in by the Vatican to oversee its anti-corruption reforms begins its latest inspection, as more reports of dirty dealings in a property investment scandal emerged.

The Council of Europe's anti-laundering body Moneyval will assess "the effectiveness of the legislative and institutional measures" adopted during a recent crackdown on corruption, the Vatican said.

The scheduled inspection comes less than a week after the public downfall of influential Italian cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was pushed out by Pope Francis following accusations of embezzlement and nepotism. — AFP

March 12, 2020

Australian prosecutors defend their case against disgraced Cardinal George Pell under a barrage of questioning from judges, as the final day of his appeal against child sex abuse convictions began.

The 78-year-old former Vatican treasurer is trying to overturn a six-year sentence for sexually assaulting two choirboys in the mid-1990s.

Pell, who once helped elect popes, is the highest-ranking Catholic Church official ever convicted of child sex crimes. — AFP

November 13, 2019

Disgraced Catholic Cardinal George Pell has been given a final avenue for appeal against his convictions for molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral in the 1990s.

In a brief procedural statement, Justice Michelle Gordon says Australia's High Court had granted the 78-year-old former Vatican treasurer "special leave to appeal" his convictions for child abuse.

Currently serving a six-year sentence, Pell is the most senior Catholic to go to jail amid a swathe of child abuse cases against clergy around the world. — AFP

September 17, 2019

An official in Canberra says disgraced Cardinal George Pell lodged an appeal against his child sex abuse convictions in Australia's High Court.

It is the final avenue of appeal for the 78-year-old -- who is serving a six-year sentence for sexually assaulting two choirboys in the 1990s -- to get out of jail and clear his name.

The former Vatican treasurer who once helped elect popes, last month lost an appeal in Victoria state's Court of Appeal in a landmark decision that saw the judges split in a 2-1 verdict. — AFP

September 14, 2019

The attorney general in the US state of Missouri accuses the Catholic Church of turning a blind eye to church sex abuse and referred a dozen former clergymen for criminal prosecution.

"Sexual abuse of minors by members of Missouri's four Roman Catholic dioceses has been a far-reaching and sustained scandal," says the Midwestern state's top prosecutor, Eric Schmitt, after a year-long investigation. 

"For decades, faced with credible reports of abuse, the church refused to acknowledge the victims and instead focused their efforts on protecting priests," Schmitt says. — AFP

August 21, 2019

An Australian court rejects the appeal of convicted paedophile cardinal George Pell against child sex abuse charges.

Once the Vatican's third-ranking official, 78-year-old Pell was sentenced this year to six years in jail for sexually assaulting two 13-year-old choirboys at a Melbourne cathedral in the 1990s.

"He will continue to serve his sentence of six years imprisonment," says Chief Justice Anne Ferguson, dismissing a series of appeals from Pell's lawyers. 

Pell is the most senior Catholic convicted of child sex abuse, making his case and ruling a touchstone moment for believers and victims groups around the world. — AFP

June 5, 2019

Jailed Australian Cardinal George Pell has arrived in court under heavy police guard, beginning an appeal against his conviction for child sex abuse.

Pell, 77, was found guilty in December on five counts of assaulting two choirboys in Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral in 1996 and 1997.

The Vatican's former number three -- who managed the church's vast finances and helped elect two popes -- was sentenced in March to six years in prison. — AFP

April 18, 2019

The Vatican's envoy to Paris has been heard by French police "at his request" over sex assault allegations, judicial sources say.

Nuncio Luigi Ventura spoke to police at the start of April, they said. Ventura is being investigated for allegedly molesting officials at the Paris mayor's office. — AFP

March 20, 2019

Australian police say they had charged a Catholic priest with indecent assault of a 15-year-old boy more than two decades ago, the latest member of the clergy caught in the church's global sex-abuse scandal.

The announcement comes a week after disgraced Australian Cardinal George Pell was sentenced in Melbourne to six years in prison for the sexual abuse of two choirboys. — AFP

March 13, 2019

The former choirboy molested by Cardinal George Pell on Wednesday said it was "hard to take comfort" from his sentence of six years in prison on child sex abuse charges.

"It is hard for me to allow myself to feel the gravity of this moment" the victim, who has not been identified, said though his lawer Vivian Waller.

"I appreciate that the court has acknowledged what was inflicted upon me as a child. However, there is no rest for me. Everything is overshadowed by the forthcoming appeal." — AFP

March 13, 2019

Disgraced Australian Cardinal George Pell "may not live to be released from prison", the judge warned a Melbourne court Wednesday as the sentencing of the 77-year-old for child sex crimes began.

Pell, the most senior Catholic clergyman ever found guilty of child sex abuse, faces a maximum 50 years in prison for assaulting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral in 1996-97.

The Australian cleric has been in custody since late February ahead of the sentencing hearing. Sitting at the back of the court as Justice Kidd read out his remarks, Pell was impassive and did not wear his white clerical collar with his black shirt and light olive-coloured jacket.

The cardinal is "entitled to the balanced and steady hand of justice", Chief Judge Peter Kidd told the County Court of Victoria as he opened his sentencing remarks.

He warned that the cleric was on trial and not the Catholic Church and lamented a "lynch mob mentality" among some of the public, adding: "You are not to be made a scapegoat." — AFP

February 27, 2019

According to a report, Cardinal George Pell was ordered held in custody following his historic conviction for child sex crimes, capping an extraordinary fall from grace for one of the most powerful men in the Catholic Church.

Prosecutors told a pre-sentencing hearing that Pell, the most senior Catholic cleric ever convicted for child sex abuse, faces a maximum 50 years in prison for five charges of sexual assault against two choirboys at Melbourne’s Saint Patrick's Cathedral in 1996-7. — AFP

February 26, 2019

Australian Cardinal George Pell, one of Pope Francis' closest advisors, has been found guilty of sexually assaulting two choirboys, becoming the most senior Catholic cleric ever convicted of child sex crimes.

An Australian jury unanimously found Pell guilty on one count of sexual abuse and four counts of indecent assault against two boys at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in the 1990s. — AFP

February 23, 2019

A top Catholic cardinal has admitted that Church files on priests who sexually abused children were destroyed or never even drawn up, a move which allowed paedophiles to prey on others.

"Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed, or not even created," German Cardinal Reinhard Marx says in a speech to a landmark Vatican summit on tackling paedophilia in the clergy. — AFP

February 21, 2019

Pope Francis opens Thursday a landmark summit at the Vatican on fighting child sex abuse, saying that the world expected "concrete measures" on tackling pedophilia in the Catholic Church.

"The Holy people of God are watching and waiting not for simple and obvious condemnations but concrete and efficient measures," he says. — AFP

February 16, 2019

Pope Francis has defrocked a former cardinal in a first for the Catholic church over accusations American Theodore McCarrick sexually abused a teenager 50 years ago, a Vatican statement says.

McCarrick, 88, who resigned from the Vatican's College of Cardinals in July, is the first cardinal ever to be defrocked for sex abuse.

He was found guilty in January by a Vatican court for sexually abusing a teenager, a decision confirmed by the pope in February, with no further recourse, according to the statement. — AFP

February 8, 2019

A priest accused of molesting more than 80 boys is trying to block the release of a film about a scandal which has rocked the French Catholic church and put one of its most senior cardinals in the dock.

The acclaimed director Francois Ozon worked for years in secret on "By the Grace of God", which will be premiered Friday at the Berlin film festival.

But its release in France later this month is threatened, with the accused priest Bernard Preynat going to court to demand that it is not shown until after his trial, which is due to start later this year. — AFP

January 12, 2019

A former Catholic priest who had admitted to sexually abusing children in the US state of Pennsylvania has been sentenced to up to 14 years in prison -- the second clergyman to be jailed in the wake of a damning statewide grand jury report.

David Poulson, 65 -- who served as a priest for four decades in the Diocese of Erie -- had entered a guilty plea in October after being accused of sexual assault and attempted sexual assault of two boys, aged eight and 15, in the 2000s. — AFP

January 5, 2019

The highest-profile Catholic cleric to be caught up in a paedophile scandal in France is to go on trial charged with failing to report a priest who abused boy scouts in the 1980s and 90s.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, is to stand trial along with five others from his diocese over allegations that they helped cover up abuse in one of the parishes in the area. — AFP

September 8, 2018

A 2006 letter from a top Vatican official confirms that the Holy See received information in 2000 about the sexual misconduct of now-resigned U.S. cardinal, lending credibility to bombshell accusations of a cover-up at the highest echelons of the Roman Catholic Church. — AP

August 25, 2018

Pope Francis faces calls to take tougher action against abuse as he visits Ireland this weekend -- a country where multiple scandals have badly damaged the image of the Catholic Church.

The pontiff arrives on Saturday for his first visit to this former bastion of Catholicism, which was last visited by a pope in 1979 when Pope John Paul II spoke to a crowd of 1.5 million people. — AFP

August 20, 2018

Pope Francis condemns the "atrocities" of clerical child sex abuse revealed by a far-reaching US report issued last week.

"In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors," Pope Francis says in a letter made public by the Vatican. 

"We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death," he adds.


August 15, 2018

More than 300 "predator" priests in Pennsylvania are accused of abusing over 1,000 children across seven decades, a grand jury says in a devastating report that decried a systematic cover-up by the Catholic Church.

It is thought to be the single most comprehensive report to date into abuse in the US church, since The Boston Globe first exposed pedophile priests in Massachusetts in 2002. — AFP

July 4, 2018

The most senior Roman Catholic cleric to be convicted of covering up child sex abuse says he would appeal the verdict and resist public pressure to resign as archbishop of an Australian city.

Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson says he would only offer his resignation to Pope Francis if his appeal fails in the New South Wales state District Court. — AP

July 4, 2018

Australia's prime minister calls on an Australian archbishop to resign after becoming the most senior Roman Catholic cleric to be convicted of covering up child sex abuse.

Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson was sentenced in a Newcastle court on Tuesday to 12 months in detention for failing to report to police the repeated abuse of two altar boys by a pedophile priest in the Hunter Valley region north of Sydney during the 1970s.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was born a Presbyterian but converted to Catholicism — his wife's religion — in 2002, says he was surprised that Wilson had not resigned when he was convicted in May. — AP

July 3, 2018

The most senior Roman Catholic cleric to be convicted of covering up child sex abuse was sentenced to 12 months in detention by an Australian court in a landmark case welcomed by some abuse survivors as a strong warning to institutions that fail to protect children.

Newcastle Magistrate Robert Stone orders Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson to serve at least 6 months before he is eligible for parole. — AP

May 23, 2018

Fourteen priests involved in a sex abuse scandal in Chile that has rocked Pope Francis's papacy, are stripped of their priestly duties.

"Fourteen priests no longer are allowed to carry out their duties... These priests have taken part in actions that may be civilian crimes as well as within the church," the bishop's office in Rancagua says. — Agence France-Presse

May 18, 2018

A Filipino priest accused of molesting two boys in the United States in the 1990s pleads guilty to two counts of felony gross sexual imposition.

Court documents show that Fernando Sayasaya entered the pleas Thursday during a scheduling conference. He's accused of abusing two underage siblings from 1995 to 1998, while he was assigned to the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church and St. Mary's Cathedral in the Fargo area of North Dakota.

Sayasaya was returned to the US in December from the Philippines, where he had been since 1998.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 30. Sayasaya faces up to 20 years in prison.

A Philippines court ordered Sayasaya's extradition in 2010. He appealed, lost and was ultimately arrested in November.

Pat O'Day, Sayasaya's attorney, did not return a phone message seeking comment.

May 1, 2018

Pope aide Pell pleads not guilty after being sent to trial for sex offenses.

May 1, 2018

Vatican finance chief Cardinal George Pell was committed to stand trial on at least one historical sexual offense charge in Australia Tuesday, but several others were thrown out.

Melbourne magistrate Belinda Wallington is part way through her ruling on whether there is enough evidence to send the top advisor to Pope Francis to trial on multiple historic sexual offense charges.

Vatican finance chief Cardinal George Pell (L) arrives in court with a heavy police presence in Melbourne on May 1, 2018. Pell is appearing to hear a crucial decision on whether he will stand trial on historical sexual offense charges. The 76-year-old, the most senior Catholic cleric to face criminal charges linked to the Church's long-running sexual abuse scandal, denies all the claims.
William West/AFP


She said she was "satisfied" there was enough evidence for a jury to convict him on one charge, but struck out other alleged offenses. — AFP

Pope Francis admits that he had made "grave mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation" in Chile after reading the findings of an investigation into sexual abuse committed by the clergy in the country.

Francis says in a letter to Chilean Bishops released by the Vatican that he intends to summon them to Rome to discuss the investigation, which involves Bishop Juan Barros' alleged cover-ups of abuse by priests in his diocese.

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