Archive of June 1, 2013

Bishops’ Adviser on Sexual Abuse: ‘How Do We Get Children Safer?’

Birmingham, Ala., Jun 1, 2013 (National Catholic Register) - Al Notzon III is the chairman of the National Review Board that advises the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, guidelines and procedures established by the USCCB in June 2002 for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.

The function of the board is to collaborate with the bishops’ conference “in preventing the sexual abuse of minors in the United States by persons in the service of the Church.”

Notzon is also the former executive director of the Alamo Area Council of more than 100 local governments and agencies. He spoke with Register senior editor Joan Frawley Desmond on May 14, following the release of the 2012 report on the implementation of the U.S. bishops’ charter.

Based on research conducted by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), the report found six credible allegations against diocesan clergy and one against a member of a religious order or institute committed in 2012.

There were six credible allegations of recent abuse noted in the 2012 report on the implementation of the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. But high-profile cases in Newark, N.J., Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Kansas City, Mo., fuel public skepticism about whether the Church is doing enough.

The fact that the numbers — both historic and contemporary — have declined was positive. The great majority of the bishops are doing an outstanding job. Clearly, these are exceptions, and we need to ask: What can we learn from this?

In Kansas City, for example, the issue was the timing of when civil authorities were notified. The diocese has to get that allegation report immediately to the civil authorities, and that allows the authorities outside the institution to investigate the report — someone who is trained and has no personal interest in who the perpetrator is. Any attempt to prevent disclosure works to our disadvantage.

The National Review Board is not an investigative body, but, rather, a policy-review board for advising the bishops.

Regarding Newark, I have read the newspaper accounts. At this time, it’s an item under discussion by the National Review Board, and we’ll look at the issue during our meeting on June 8.

We learn lessons from these cases and provide policies or recommendations to address the issue.

Over the past year, you have strengthened the audit process that documents each diocese’s compliance with the Dallas Charter.

The board has implemented an enhanced-compliance audit that begins with the charter and goes article by article to see if a diocese has fully accomplished those goals. It’s about complying with the spirit as well as the letter of the charter. It is not just a review of numbers.

An example of the change is that, now, the auditors not only ask a diocese, "Do you have a diocesan review board?" They now question the frequency of meetings. That begins to get to the question of effectiveness. Another question is on the number of people involved in youth activities receiving safe-environment training: Now, are there records of attendance being kept?

The board had to solve the problem of state privacy laws before implementing the enhanced-compliance audit. As an example, this meant redacting victims’ names before providing a document.

The board worked with auditors and attorneys to arrive at solutions that would allow access to redacted documents without violating privacy laws.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was helpful in advocating for finding a solution.

In 2011, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was certified to be in compliance with the Dallas Charter, but, during the same year, a grand jury report charged that the archdiocese had allowed priests who were credibly accused to remain in ministry.

The press has covered the report and the subsequent trial, so I will not comment on an individual case, but the auditors will be looking to make sure that all allegations are brought before the diocesan review board for their recommendations to the bishop.

How do we get children safer? We know that we have a societal problem of child abuse. It will be present in every institution of society, and we need to continue to evaluate our efforts on this issue.

Do we have a perfect system yet? No, but the bishops and the National Review Board are continually working to improve the process.

Before the 2011 grand jury report in Philadelphia, some accused priests had already been removed, evaluated and then returned to ministry — only to be removed a second time after the report was released.

One problem in Philadelphia was that other people were making a judgment about whether an allegation was a boundary violation or an abuse issue — without bringing the report to the lay review board. If you don’t give the review board every allegation, they are not being properly used.

During the 2012 meeting in Rome of the English-speaking Anglophone conference, it was made clear that every credible allegation should be reported to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. And Pope Francis has stated his concern about the child-abuse crisis in the Church.

A case in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., involved possession of child pornography by a priest. Pornography addiction is pervasive, and it is linked to the sexual abuse of minors. Does safe-environment training include education about the dangers of pornography?

Child pornography has been listed as a violation under the charter. The board is currently addressing this issue.

Boundary violations, as opposed to direct sexual abuse, remain a controversial issue, with some critics asserting that priests should not be removed for this offense. Yet some boundary violations have been linked to credible allegations of abuse.

That is why every diocese is required to have and promulgate their code of conduct or “standards of behavior.” The issue of boundary violations is best dealt with through education and making sure that if warnings are not followed there will be consequences.

To make a larger point: Dioceses have their policies and codes of conduct; we also, hopefully, are able to rely on common sense. One example would be a concern about priests assigned to isolated rural areas with no support and how that can be addressed. Another is the local bishop meeting with major superiors of orders operating within the diocese. Now, with 10 years of experience, there is an increase of awareness for everyone involved, including the bishops.

While the majority of clergy sex-abuse victims are post-pubescent boys, the researchers who completed the second John Jay Report concluded that same-sex attraction was not a significant factor in the crisis. Subsequently, some Church leaders challenged that assessment.

The majority of victims are still post-pubescent males.

The charter recommended strengthening human formation in the seminary and improving screening as well.

When you hire an independent researcher [group], they reach their own conclusions. I don’t agree with their conclusion in this instance — when 83% of cases are male on male.
What have you discussed at past meetings in Rome dealing with efforts to address clergy sexual abuse in English-speaking countries?

We talked about the John Jay study and some of the recommendations coming out of it.
But we also wanted to know what they are doing — it’s not just us talking. We are learning from each other.

In Australia, they did not start out using a legalistic framework, but asked, “How do we approach and assist victims?” In the U.S., at the beginning of the crisis, it was a legally driven process. The Australians reported their system seems to be having a beneficial effect on the issue for both the victims and the Church in Australia, and this was achieved without the costs of litigation.

This is not an argument for smaller settlements, but we have to look at our goal and deal with the fact that the money paid out hasn’t necessarily promoted healing.

The mission of the Church is to provide a safe environment for the children, as well as victim assistance that helps people through the healing process.

Posted with permission from the National Catholic Register.

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Pro-lifers pray after death of Canadian abortion crusader

Ottawa, Canada, Jun 1, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pro-life leaders in Canada reacted with sadness and prayers to the death of Henry Morgentaler, regretting his leading role in legalizing abortion across the nation and the tens of thousands of abortions he performed.

“As an organization supporting the protection of all human life from conception to natural death, we have always been opposed to Canada’s unrestricted access to legal abortion of which Henry Morgentaler, through his continued court challenges, was probably the biggest single influence,” the Toronto-based Catholic Civil Rights League said May 30.

“Nevertheless, his death reminds us of the sanctity of all life, and we continue to pray for him, as well as for his family and friends at this difficult time,” the league added.

Jim Hughes, National President of the Campaign Life Coalition, said he had been praying for Morgentaler every day “for more than 20 years.”

However, he said Morgentaler was “a highly divisive figure” who trained abortionists “in his methods of killing.”

Hughes said the abortionist did “unbelievable damage” to Canada’s future and his advocacy resulted in the abortions of “millions of Canadians.”

The Polish-born Morgentaler died May 28 in Toronto at the age of 90. He had survived Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz and Dachau before emigrating to Canada from Poland, the New York Times reports.

He performed his first illegal abortion in 1968 on the 18-year-old daughter of a friend. Beginning in the late 1960s, he opened illegal abortion clinics because he believed criminalized abortion drove women to incompetent abortionists.

“The law was barbarous, cruel and unjust. I had been in a concentration camp, and I knew what suffering was. If I can ease suffering, I feel perfectly justified in doing so,” he said, according to a 1996 biography by Catherine Dunphy.

During his career, he performed tens of thousands of abortions. He was arrested for performing illegal abortions four times and acquitted by jurors four times. Prosecutors appealed one acquittal, resulting in Morgentaler’s conviction.

He served ten months of an 18-month jail sentence, being released after a heart attack. His appeal of another abortion conviction in Ontario resulted in a hearing before Canada’s Supreme Court that challenged the constitutionality of Canadian abortion law. In a 5-2 ruling, the court struck down the law on Jan. 28, 1988 on the grounds it denied women their rights in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Throughout his abortion career, Morgentaler’s actions provoked death threats and some violent responses. He was attacked with garden shears and beaten by a mob. One of his clinics was firebombed, though he escaped injury.

Morgentaler's death this week prompted prayers from pro-life leaders.

“As we wish for both ally and adversary, may God have mercy on his soul,” said Mary Ellen Douglas, national director of the Campaign Life Coalition.

“This is the end of an era and we hope that our country can now turn a necessary corner and find the courage to restore protection to all human beings, born and pre-born.”

Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, president of Canada’s bishops conference, said he recognized that Morgentaler’s family had lost someone they loved. He expressed his condolences on behalf of Canada’s Catholic bishops.

“Every human life is sacred and deserves our care and protection,” Archbishop Smith said. “As Catholics, we mourn the loss of each life, in particular of those who die in the womb, and pray to God to be merciful to all who die. May Our Lord help us all to find the best ways to aid those who are suffering and in need.”

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Political scholar says religious freedom unites society

Washington D.C., Jun 1, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Through respect and healthy debate, society can find a balance in respecting the rule of law while accommodating the religious beliefs of different groups, said political scientist William Galston.

“Religious liberty belongs to no party, no ideology, no creed: it is our common property and our shared inheritance,” he explained in a May 30 address.

Galston gave the speech upon being honored at the National Religious Freedom Award Dinner in Washington, D.C. The May 30 event was sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s American Religious Freedom Program.

Currently a scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., Galston has participated in six presidential campaigns. He also teaches at the University of Maryland and previously served as the director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, as well as an advisor to a number of organizations focused on public policy and the good of society.

He received the 2013 National Religious Freedom Award at the event for his leadership in helping to pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act during his time as an advisor for President Bill Clinton.

The act, signed into law by Clinton 20 years ago, prohibits the government from substantially burdening a person’s free exercise of religion unless doing so is necessary to further a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive way to do so.

Galston reflected upon his memories surrounding the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, saying that “President Clinton knew what he was doing when he pushed for and then signed” the act.

He noted that the law passed nearly unanimously in the House of Representatives and the Senate following a “misguided Supreme Court decision” that threatened religious liberty. In the former president’s words, the goal of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was to encourage “everybody to do what they believe is the right thing to do,” relayed Galston.

“Religious liberty must not be another weapon in or victim of the cultural battles that define and oftentimes disfigure our politics,” he warned. “It must become an isle of unity in a sea of perdition.”

However, because “faiths diverge not only on points of theology and ritual, but also in their consequences for public policy,” he observed, there will always be challenges in striving towards a society where all can practice their faith freely.

These differing conceptions of the good must not be minimized, he explained, and society must realize that religious freedom is not absolute, but that there are some boundaries surrounding the acts which a society finds impermissible.

However, Galston emphasized, society must offer basic accommodations, or else “we ensure nothing but endless conflict.”

“We are arguing then about the kinds of considerations” needed for religious practice, a subject upon which people of good will can reasonably disagree, he said, adding that discussions concerning religious freedom must therefore incorporate an element of compromise from all parties.

“There are ways of conducting this necessary and unavoidable argument that strengthen society, and others that weaken it,” he said, cautioning against aggressive political battles.

Instead, Galston suggested that “by regarding and treating those with whom we disagree as fellow seekers after justice and truth, we make it more likely that they will seek justice and truth rather than dominion.”

“In the heat of the moment, let us allow the cooler voice of reason and the quieter voice of conscience to be heard,” he said of the compromises and accommodations needed to protect religious liberty.

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Vatican conference to reveal harm of prescription drugs for children

Vatican City, Jun 1, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - An upcoming conference at the Vatican will examine the harmful effects of using prescription drugs rather than therapy to treat emotional disorders and mental illnesses in children and expectant mothers.

“We want this conference to show a scholarly perspective and then we also want to disseminate our information to a wider audience with the Vatican’s help,” a psychologist who has helped organize the conference, Barry Duncan, told CNA May 31.

An event six years in the making, “The Child as a Person and as a Patient: Therapeutic Approaches Compared,” will take place June 14 to 15 in St. Pius X Hall and will feature several psychiatrists and psychologists, a social worker, family therapist and an investigative journalist.

The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers has organized the conference in hopes of bringing together professionals to discuss the harmful consequences of overusing prescription drugs for treating mental and emotional disorders in children as well as how a similar trend is hurting pregnant mothers.

“Pharmaceutical industries spend millions and millions of dollars on misinformation and we want to counteract that with this conference,” Duncan said.

According to Duncan, misinformed physicians are now frequently recommending children to take one of two main groups of drugs, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, better known as SSRIs, and anti-psychotics.

“SSRIs double the risk of suicide for children while anti-psychotics cause cardiovascular problems, obesity and diabetes,” said Duncan.

He said prescriptions for psychiatric drugs have increased by 274 percent globally in over 50 countries since 2003. In the United States alone, 11 million SSRIs are being given to children each year, he added.

“Anti-psychotics used to be reserved for adults with serious mental disorders but now they’re being given to children who are poor because it is the easier option,” he added.

The conference hopes to prove that “psychosocial options” are better than “psychotropic care.” In other words, a sort of psychotherapy is safer than drugs, which are the cheaper and faster option.

“The cause of their problems varies a lot since they could have parents with alcohol or drug addictions or it could just stem from poverty issues so the causes to their behavior could be wide ranging,” he said.

According to the psychologist, the people giving these children drugs are not treating the root of their problems and are just “sedating and controlling” them to make the unruly children more “manageable.”

“That’s why we need to take the time to find out the problem looking at poverty and despair and not just a quick fix,” he added.

Duncan explained that this is mostly affecting children aged 6 to 17, but younger children are also being unnecessarily drugged, even by health care workers who are not doctors and are therefore not aware of the severe side effects of the medication.

“Nurses and psychologists can prescribe them with these drugs in some states in the U.S., but it is mostly primary care physicians prescribing them and they do not know much about clinical trial results,” he stated. “One of the problems is that epidemiological research is always two or three years behind.”

Experts taking part in the conference also hope to show that the risks heavily outweigh the benefits of the drugs.

“Honest science recommends no first usage of psychiatric drugs and to try everything else first because there is good sound data to prove this,” said Marcia Barbacki, an occupational therapist who has experience treating children told CNA May 30.

Barbacki said patients are not well informed of all of the side effects because “it is hard to access all of the data.”

“If it is very difficult for doctors to obtain all of the data and be informed of all of the side effects, how will family and patients be informed?” she asked. “This is why this conference is so important for them.”

The therapist noted people “should have all of the information about these drugs so they can have informed consent.”

“I have witnessed an increased usage of psychiatric drugs as well as people who consume more than one psychiatric drug simultaneously and it’s increased my concern,”she said.

The president of the Council, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, will make the opening speech.

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