Ancora il New York Times contro il Vaticano. Nel mirino il cardinale Levada. Cosa racconta il NYT? Che tempo fa tre cattolici americani decisero di compilare un lungo documento sugli abusi sessuali sui minori nella Chiesa. I tre erano un prelato esperto di diritto canonico, un avvocato che aveva difeso alcuni preti accusati di pedofilia e uno psichiatra. Le 92 pagine scritte dal gruppo attirarono l’attenzione della Chiesa negli Stati Uniti, che decise di inviare William Joseph Levada, attuale prefetto della Congregazione per la dottrina della fede. Levada incontrò i tre in un hotel per un’intera giornata. Poi quindici giorni dopo Levada chiamò uno dei tre autori del documento per comunicare la decisione dei vescovi di non utilizzare il loro studio sulla pedofilia nella Chiesa. La questione sarebbe stata invece affidata a un comitato interno, affermò Levada, ma nei mesi seguenti la promessa commissione non fu mai messa insieme. Questa è l’accusa al cardinalò Levada. Ecco l’articolo comparso ora sul NYT:
Cardinal Has a Mixed Record on Sexual Abuse Cases
By MICHAEL LUO
Published: May 5, 2010
For eight strenuous hours, the cardinal was pressed to explain why he had decided to return priests who were confirmed sexual abusers back to ministry. He acknowledged that he had failed to notify the authorities of allegations of abuse. He struggled to recall why he had chosen not to share information with parishioners.
The questions related to abuse cases that Cardinal Levada dealt with while he was an American bishop; he oversaw the archdioceses of Portland and San Francisco from 1986 to 2005. But by the time the questions were being asked, the cardinal had assumed an exalted position at the Vatican just vacated by his old friend Pope Benedict XVI, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
That put him in charge of adjudicating sexual abuse cases involving priests worldwide, as Benedict had been before him. And like Benedict, whose handling of delicate cases before he became pope has come under scrutiny, Cardinal Levada often did not act as assertively as he could have on abuse cases.
Cardinal Levada was ahead of other church officials on the issue at times, setting up an independent committee to vet abuse cases and calling for greater accountability from church leaders.
But an examination of his record, pieced together from inter
views and a review of thousands of pages of court documents, show that he generally followed the prevailing practice of the church hierarchy, often giving accused priests the benefit of the doubt and being reluctant to remove them from ministry.
Erin Olson, a Portland lawyer who has been involved in numerous sexual abuse lawsuits against the Portland Archdiocese, said, “It’s no surprise that the Catholic Church continues to be mired in the abuse scandal when the cardinal put in charge of how the church as a whole responds to child sex abuse allegations did such a poor job himself as a bishop and archbishop.” She was largely responsible for forcing Cardinal Levada to testify that day in 2006.
Cardinal Levada wrote in an e-mail message that he did not have “the time nor the access to records” to respond to a list of a questions submitted to him 10 days ago. But he pointed to a homily he delivered at an apology ceremony for clergy abuse victims in 2003, which he said might be helpful in “understanding changes in my own thinking and behavior as well as the evolution in approach taken by the U.S. Catholic bishops.”
That message touched upon, among other issues, the importance of reporting incidents to authorities and removing “priest offenders” from ministry.
“The whole Church has been shocked and scandalized by the abuse done by a few of her priests to children and young people,” he said in the homily, adding, “The Church is slowly learning how deep this wound is, how slow to heal, and how diligent must be our effort to ensure that it will not happen again.”
Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, who served under Cardinal Levada in San Francisco as his vicar for clergy, said the cardinal had been unfairly maligned.
“My own judgment is he gets categorized negatively,” Bishop Wester said. “I don’t think it’s deserved. I just think he did right by the victims. He’s not somebody who’s going to slap you on the back, be super gregarious, the life of the party kind of guy. He’s more serious, more reserved. Sometimes people misinterpret that.
“In his own way, I think he’s very transparent and forthright,” Bishop Wester said.
Suzanne Giraudo, a psychologist and chairwoman of the San Francisco Archdiocese’s Independent Review board, which evaluates the credibility of sexual abuse accusations, praised Cardinal Levada, saying he wanted to “do what was right, not only for the priest but for the victim.”
An Early Warning
An assessment of Cardinal Levada’s performance in his current job at the Vatican is complicated by the fact that his congregation’s decisions are shrouded in confidentiality rules.
Canon lawyers said cases had been handled more efficiently by the Vatican since procedures were clarified in 2001. Nevertheless, it is not difficult to find cases that have dragged on for several years. The congregation has added staff members, but it still has only 10 people handling cases, and there have been more than 3,000 in the past decade.
Several recent cases that have become public have raised questions about whether the Vatican is even now acting aggressively enough.