News / USA

Some Abuse Victims Skeptical about a New Pope

Some Abuse Victims Skeptical about a New Popei
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March 11, 2013
Roman Catholic cardinals on Tuesday begin a conclave at the Vatican. One of the issues as they cast ballots for the next pope will be the ongoing controversy over clerical sex abuse. Some victims of that abuse say the church has tried to avoid responsibility, and they're skeptical that the next pope will make major changes. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky met one American victim and heard her story.
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— Roman Catholic cardinals on Tuesday begin a conclave at the Vatican. One of the issues as they cast ballots for the next pope will be the ongoing controversy over clerical sex abuse.  Some victims of that abuse say the church has tried to avoid responsibility, and they're skeptical that the next pope will make major changes. 

“This is a picture of me, right before my abuse. I was around eignt or nine when the abuse started,” says Becky Ianni, who remembers herself as a normal, happy child.

Referring to another photo she said, “and then this is me, during my abuse. And you can see I cut my hair. He used to touch my hair.  He basically - he would rape me with his hands.  He at one point in the vestry of the church stood behind me and rubbed his hands up and down my school uniform. And I remember after that point I would start wearing a sweater all the time, and that was my protection.”

Ianni says she didn't think about it as sex.

“I just knew it felt wrong, and that it made me feel dirty," she said.  "And I never once blamed him.  I blamed myself 100 percent because I thought God was punishing me because I must be a bad dirty little girl.  My perpetrator was a newly ordained priest and this was his first parish, St. Mary's."

The man Ianni says abused her, the Reverend William T. Reinecke, served at a church in Alexandria, Virginia.

He killed himself in 1992 after he was confronted by another victim, an altar boy.

Ianni is now a spokeswoman for a victims' group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, that wants Pope Benedict to be prosecuted for not protecting children.

But Benedict did go further than his predecessor, John Paul II, in reining in pedophile priests, says papal biographer Marco Politi.

“Ratzinger as pope has certainly wanted to open a new page, and he has made rules, which are tougher," he said. "He has introduced a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy. At the same time, there are still so many unknown victims in the archives which have not been opened.”

Most of the known cases have been in the United States, where more than 15,000 people were allegedly violated since 1950.  There have also been allegations in Europe and Australia.

It’s hard to know just how widespread the abuse has been in Third World countries, because in many places there are taboos against discussing it.  But in the United States, a recent survey found that one in three Catholics think it’s the most important problem facing the church.

Before the conclave, Archbishop of Chicago Francis George said the next pope must not tolerate abuse.

“But there are still the victims, and the wound therefore is deep in their hearts and minds very often, and as long as its with them it’s with all of us, and that will last for a long time," he said.

Ianni says she received a settlement but only after the church dragged its feet.

“I think their first instinct is to protect themselves, to protect their reputation," she said.

She hopes it’s different under the new pope but says that until now the church has only responded when it was forced to.

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

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by: Ordinary Citizen from: Brisbane, Australia
March 11, 2013 8:43 PM
I feel very sorry for victims of abuse all over the world. I do not know how it feels but isn't the reality that NOTHING or NO ONE can make this fully right. As a citizen of thw world, I would like to hear others constructively comment on what will help the victims. I think these types of stories of abuse have reached saturation. There must be a better way/solution for the victims. Is it only the Catholic Church that is abusing ?????


by: kafantaris from: USA, Ohio
March 11, 2013 8:38 PM
What would Christ say?
Be humble. This is the best way to live as tooting our own horn never works. Pride is the cancer of the self and has wrecked the life of many a man.
Share with others. After our living expenses are paid, why not share the rest with those less fortunate. We can't take it with us, and it will spoil our kids more if we leave it with them. Why not give it to those we deem worthy while we still have our faculties.
Show tolerance. This is not only the hallmark of a learned man but also an experienced one. Nobody is all bad or all good. In between lies humanity, but we will never find it if we don't look there. After all, this is where Christ looked and found us. This is where the Church must look also to find its lost flock.
Turn the other cheek. If we were wronged revenge won't make it right -- though it might briefly feel better. But the revenge will perpetuate the wrong, and from generation to generation. Why not fight the urge for revenge ourselves by turning the other cheek and stop it, there and then with us.
Above all, let’s love our strange, filthy, unworthy neighbor as we love ourselves. He could use our understanding and help, though he may not deserve it. He is our brother -- unconditionally -- and we are our brother's keeper.
This is what Christ was about and these are the themes that shaped the Church way back in Constantinople. We should return to those themes to invigorate the Church, and in the process find and invigorate ourselves.

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