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"Double Standard" Update

Vatican Orders Reinstatement of Child-Abusing Priest

by Christopher A. Ferrara

The Australian newspaper The Age (July 6, 2002) reports that "A priest accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old schoolgirl was allowed to continue ministering in Melbourne parishes after the Vatican overturned his suspension by the then archbishop, George Pell."

According to the story, "Father James Barry Whelan, 67, was removed from his duties in about 1996 after allegations of his conduct were revealed. But it has now been disclosed that he successfully appealed to the Vatican under canon law and was reinstated to his parish in West St. Kilda." After the reinstatement, Whelan continued to serve as a priest until - wouldn’t you know it? - he resigned "as the archdiocese investigated new allegations of sexual misconduct against him." Perhaps the Vatican will order his reinstatement a second time.

The Age reports that the alleged abuse of the first victim took place "over a six-year-period in the 1960s during pastoral visits the priest made to her Catholic school, at his presbytery and in his apartment." When the victim grew up, she wrote to the local Archbishop "pleading with him to protect other women and children from the priest. Believing the archdiocese had ignored her pleas, allowing Father Whelan to continue to hold a position of trust and power, she became angry."

In a statement released on his behalf, however, Archbishop Pell, claimed that he "did take action against Father Whelan, suspending him from duties. However, it said the requirements of natural justice permitted a suspension for only a limited period. After that Father Whelan resumed his appointment at the West St. Kilda parish under strict conditions."

It seems that Fr. Whelan has been involved in a number of allegations that he sexually exploited women, resulting in confidential settlements. "In two of the cases, the agreements prevented the women from talking about what happened or from taking further action against the Catholic Church. An estimated $157,000 was paid to settle the three cases. It is believed the money was paid by Father Whelan or by members of his wealthy Melbourne family."

Ah, but "natural justice" prevented Fr. Whelan’s superiors from suspending him beyond a limited period of time. His faculties just had to be restored and he just had to be returned to a position of authority. Even the Vatican got into the act and ordered his reinstatement.

But where Father Nicholas Gruner is concerned, this great solicitude for the rights of the priest mysteriously vanishes. He, and he alone, among 405,000 priests is declared permanently "suspended" and even threatened with excommunication. For, after all, Father Gruner has committed the one unpardonable offense in the post-conciliar epoch: speaking the truth about the ecclesial disaster presided over by the current Vatican apparatus.