Law and Disorder Radio – New Vatican Rules on Handling Priest Sexual Abuse Cases – 38 Years Since Roe v. Wade – Hosts: Heidi Boghosian, Michael Steven Smith & Michael Ratner – Produced by Geoff Brady

Law and Disorder Radio

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New Vatican Rules on Handling Priest Sexual Abuse Cases

Earlier this year, the Vatican had revised its laws making it easier to discipline sex abuser priests. The new internal process at the Vatican will use faster judicial procedures instead of full ecclesiastical trials. Critics of the revisions say the Vatican merely tweaked the process and the new rules don’t hold bishops accountable for abuse by priests on their watch or require that they report the sexual abuse to the authorities. In the same report was the inclusion that attempting to ordain women as priests was comparable to heresy, apostasy and pedophilia. To many it was a comparison meant to resist any suggestion that pedophilia can be addressed by ending the requirement of celibacy.

Barbara Blaine:

  • SNAP is now a worldwide movement of survivors. We invite supporters join us. We have approximately 10,000 members. Some are spouses and family members but most are survivors; survivors of sexual abuse by priests or other clergy members. Sometimes by religious brothers, by nuns, deacons, even bishops.
  • We grew in 2002 and 2003 as the headlines were exploding of abuse by priests.
  • We have support group meetings in the United States in about 65 different cities. We were extremely naive, not to mention wounded trying to figure out how to make it from day to day. It’s empowering for us if we can protect someone who is 12 or 13 from being abused.
  • Some documents was released in 2009 in Ireland. Those were the result of government investigations into the allegations of priests and other religious figures sexually abusing children. Victims across Europe, in Germany and Belgium, Austria, Netherlands, England began speaking out and reporting their abuse. In Ireland at the end of 2009, four bishops were resigning their positions.
  • From our perspective, what comes out of the Vatican is a lot of lofty words and empty promises. If you look for concrete action, you’ll see very little if any. We as victims are devout Catholics and it’s really incredible for us to comprehend that someone in the position of authority in the church would not want us to be protected.
  • It was heartbreaking and devastating to learn the policy of the church officials is to protect the predators and their assets and their reputations, not the children.
  • They’re accountable to no one and its okay for them to continue and commit these crimes.
  • The vast majority of victims still do not report. More than 5,000 priests have been identified are sexual offenders who have abused children between 1950 and 2008.
  • 5 percent of priests abusing children. When someone rapes a child they get fired, in the church they get promoted.
  • /

Attorney Pam Spees:

  • We joined a conversation with SNAP looking for ways to insure accountability for what’s going on.
  • Is there a legal framework that gets at the widespread nature of this. There’s one book out that discusses the 2,000-year-old paper trail of sexual abuse in the church.
  • You’ll hear things like a cardinal or a pope attempt to make an apology. They’re sorry for what happened to these folks. It didn’t just happen.
  • It shows the lack of attention and lack of awareness of the gravity of what’s going on and a prioritization of the church protecting itself and its power, rather than insuring the protection of the kids in the church and others who are vulnerable to abuse by priests.
  • It also looks like an attempt to decentralize the responsibility. There are key legal experts who have discussed this as crimes against humanity.
  • These are acts that are committed as a widespread or systematic assault or attack on the civilian population.
  • When you’re talking about the massive sustained harm that is being caused here and the lack of awareness and acknowledgment…it’s really astonishing.
  • The International Criminal Court is a possible venue that has jurisdiction on crimes against humanity.
  • The Church can’t be trusted to police itself.

Guest – Pam Spees, senior staff attorney in the international human rights program at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). She has a background in international criminal and human rights law with a gender focus, as well as criminal trial practice.

Guest –  Barbara Blaine, founder of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the nation’s oldest and largest self-help organization for victims of clergy sexual abuse.

 38 Years Since Roe v. Wade

The politics of abortion continue to divide the country as nearly 38 years have passed since the Roe v. Wade decision. January 22 marks the anniversary of the landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court to legalize abortion. Tens of thousands of women have been saved from death and serious injury since abortion became legal in 1973.

Will legal abortions be attacked by the new Congress? Representative John Boehner and 50 supporters seek to codify the Hyde Amendment with the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Listeners may remember our interview with Rhonda Copelon, who filed a nationwide class action lawsuit that stopped Hyde from taking effect in 1976, which would prohibit Medicaid funded abortions for poor women.

Both sides of this controversial issue will be heard during this anniversary. Meanwhile the longstanding clash between anti-choice people and abortion clinics continue. In a Bronx abortion clinic for example, police and National Lawyers Guild legal observers monitor the threats against escorts or anyone interfering with those going into the clinic.






  Betty Maloney:

  • It’s been over five years that the clinic has been attacked by the right wing.
  • The groups that are out there are funded by Chris Slattery–he runs about 26 crisis pregnancy centers, false clinics throughout the different boroughs–and also by the Catholic Church.
  • There are religious rightists out there, praying, harassing, yelling at women as they enter the clinic, and also yelling at their partners as they enter the clinic.
  • They yell, “You’re not a real man.” “We have alternatives.”
  • They particularly target the Bronx. It’s a poor neighborhood. It’s the outer boroughs.
  • New York Coalition for Abortion Clinic Defense
  • There is a clinic access law and they’re supposed to stay behind barricades, 15 feet away.
  • At Dr. Emily’s Clinic there have been situations where they (anti-choice protestors) have changed women’s minds.
  • We have vests on that indicate we’re escorts. We also act as a guard by putting ourselves between them (the right wing) and the women. We try really not to engage them.
  • Franciscan Monks will say you’re out here because you’re angry and never been loved by a real man.
  • We’re out there every Saturday from 8AM to noon.
  • Congress failed by only one vote to sterilize all Japanese women that were interned.

Cristina Lee:

  • I’ve been doing legal observing at the clinic for 6 months. The police are very hands off.
  • We’ve also seen officers who’ve been very, very chummy with the anti-choice activists.
  • It doesn’t take much for them to say, you need to be 15 feet back, and they won’t even do that.
  • We have legal observers go to clinic to observe how the police are enforcing the laws, are they enforcing the laws. Franciscan Monks go not just to object but are very abusive verbally.
  • It’s not just something that’s happening in the Midwest.
  • If you want to get involved as an escort you can go the New York City Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

Guest – Cristina Lee, law student and National Lawyers Guild legal observer.

Guest – Elizabeth Maloney, member of Radical Women, who led a delegation of Radical Women members to Jackson, Mississippi to defend the last abortion clinic in that state. In 1984, the group had helped to get the first conviction of a clinic firebomber.