Archive for June, 2017

A Wake-up Call in the Vatican

The sexual abuse charges that have been filed against Cardinal George Pell, a high-ranking Vatican official in the Curia, raise many questions and have set off alarms about the effectiveness of Pope Francis’s response to allegations of clergy abuse of minors.

George Pell was ordained a priest in 1966 in the diocese of Ballarat in Australia and became a bishop in 1987. In 1993,  he accompanied his former housemate and fellow priest, Gerard Ridsdale, into court as he faced trial for serial sexual abuse in a show of support. Pell later stated that he regretted this decision because it seemed to show greater concern for the abuser than the survivor of abuse. But it was part of a clear pattern of support for the priests accused of assault and a defensive posture on the part of the Australian Church in responding to such accusations.

Pell has also been accused on several occasions of sexual abuse although he has never stood trial. The  Cardinal did testify on several occasions before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.

But his 2014 appointment to the position of Cardinal-Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in the Vatican struck some in Australia as an attempt to get him off the local scene where he was broadly criticized in media coverage related to claims of a cover-up by the Church.

In August of that year and again in 2016, Cardinal Pell provided testimony before the Commission via video link, citing ill health in the second case.

The 2016 song “Come Home (Cardinal Pell),” written and performed by Australian performer Tim Minchin, criticized Pell for failing to return home to testify. The proceeds of this irreverent tune allowed 15 survivors of abuse to travel to Rome and watch Pell’s testimony in person.

Last July, when asked about the investigation into allegations naming Pell, Pope Francis reserved judgment until the Australian justice system had made a decision regarding the matter. True to his word, Francis is not obstructing this investigation and has granted leave to Cardinal Pell in order to respond to the criminal charges by appearing in court.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, an institution created by Pope Francis in 2014 to address the issue of clergy sexual abuse of minors, was seen as a major step forward in responding more openly to addressing claims of abuse. Yet the two survivors of sexual abuse who served on the commission have departed. When Marie Collins resigned her commission on March 1, she published a letter in the National Catholic Reporter explaining that the Commission had neither adequate independent resources nor the authority to implement even simple changes.

There is some cause for optimism about a shift in the culture of obstructionism and secrecy that has long attended abuse claims against Church officials.  It is not surprising that someone who is a trusted adviser of Pope Francis and part of his inner circle would continue to receive support in the face of as yet unnamed and unproven accusations.

But there remains cause for concern, a lingering fear that our warm and pastoral Pope is still part of a closed system in which patriarchy and privilege have long protected their closed ranks.

Pope Francis must put the full force of his role as pontiff behind the efforts to bring the buried secrets of sexual abuse into the light of day for a just reckoning.

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Solidarity With Migrants From Haiti and Central America

Last Friday, Save TPS Now! (¡Salvemos TPS Ahora!) conference participants and allies met with members of Congress and held a vigil in front of the White House to advocate for the renewal of their Temporary Protected Status (TPS). TPS allows the Department of Homeland Security to welcome citizens of other nations if their country of origin has become a place where living with human dignity is difficult or impossible due to conflict or natural disaster. The Department of Homeland Security has the authority to extend TPS indefinitely in increments of up to 18 months and affords participants the opportunity to remain legally in the United States with a work visa.

Currently, there are over 300,000 beneficiaries of TPS living in the United States, the majority from our neighbors in Central America and Haiti. TPS was granted to survivors of Hurricane Mitch who fled Nicaragua and Honduras and to survivors of devastating earthquakes in Haiti and El Salvador, provided they made their way to the United States and have remained here continuously since a specified date.

At the Quixote Center, we believe that the current administration should continue to stand with these migrants who have suffered grave harm in their homelands by renewing their TPS status for the full period of 18 months allowed under current law.

Because the situations in their countries of origin remain fragile and their lives are well established in the US, it is inhumane to insist that they leave the US. The case with Haiti is especially complicated by the fact that Haiti suffered the effects of Hurricane Matthew last year. Despite these dire circumstances, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly only agreed to extend Haiti’s current TPS for only 6 months. In threatening to end the TPS status of families and individuals who have lived in the US for many years, Secretary Kelly is targeting people who would be returning to situations that are little improved today over the situations they fled in the past. Indeed, their return would in many cases strain an already heavily taxed system and could result in just the sort of  humanitarian crisis that TPS was designed to address.

We will keep you up to date on this topic as it develops, particularly when there are opportunities to take coordinated action in solidarity with our neighbors in need.

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  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
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