The Catholic Church’s child molestation cover-up

Pope Francis and other highly ranked members of the Vatican have been covering these cases up for centuries.


Pope Francis in 2013. (Wikimedia Commons/Casa Rosada)

Vadim Trubetskoy, Writer

Less than two months ago, Pope Francis gave a historic first mass in the birthplace of Islam – the United Arab Emirates. The world nodded in approval as the Vatican seemed to be on a positive trajectory. However, we’ve just learned that under the surface, the biggest child molestation scandal in the Vatican’s history was brewing.

In 2002, the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team famously uncovered a harrowing and far-reaching scandal of cleric child abuse and cover-up going on in and around Boston. Since then, as hundreds of allegations, reports, witnesses testimonies, hearings, and convictions have come into the public eye, the full extent has surfaced — the Catholic Church has been aware of and engaging in the cover-up of its clerics abusing children for hundreds of years.

Away from the gaze of journalism and shielded by the cultural, social and political power that it wields, the Vatican has enabled these transgressions. However, while the Catholic Church has been getting negative publicity recently for the actions of its priests, other religions such as Judaism and Islam suffer from similar scandals.

Cardinal George Pell.
(Wikimedia Commons/Kerry Myers)

To put the full horror of this issue into perspective, it’s important to provide at least a holistic history of the matter. What the Boston Globe uncovered in 2002 lifted the veil on what was transpiring in Boston and in U.S dioceses under the stewardship of Pope John Paul II, who was heavily criticized for being unaware of the abuse.

Whispers of this first began throughout the globe in the 1990s, forcing a major resignation from Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër of Vienna. Then, the Spotlight story acted as an impetus for a plethora of different reports and investigations.

Over the last 50 years, over 4,000 clerics have abused over 10,000 children.

This was happening in Ireland, Australia, the United States and several other countries with a large Catholic population. High-profile figures in the Church allowed this to continue by covering up the abuse accusations, and have done so up until and through the present day.

Just last year, Australian Archbishop Philip Wilson was forced to step down for covering up abuse by James Fletcher in the 1970s. And on Feb. 26, news broke that Australian Cardinal George Pell had been convicted of abusing two 13-year-old choir boys in an incident from the 1990s. 

This most recent development is especially dishonorable because Cardinal Pell was the highest ranking Australian clergy and a special adviser to Pope Francis. He is touted to have been the third most powerful person in the Vatican, holding the title of “Chief of Vatican Finances.”

Pope Francis at the Vatican.
(Wikimedia Commons/MainlyTwelve)

Only ten days before the news about Cardinal Pell, an equally high-profile case unfolded with U.S. ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, making him the highest ranked member to be discharged. Although he denies the allegations while living in seclusion in Kansas, charges have been brought against McCarrick for assaulting a teenager in New York in the 70s.

Cardinal Pell was found guilty by a unanimous jury. However, the news was withheld from the public via court order, until Pope Francis declared an “all-out battle” against sexual abuse.

This is one of, if not the most high-profile conviction of any member of the Vatican for crimes of this nature and has certainly upset members of the church, while the Vatican’s official comment called the conviction  “painful”. Pell, however, insists that he is innocent and calls the allegations “vile and disgusting.”

Email Vadim at [email protected]

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