Sex Crimes and the Vatican
RECORDED FROM TRANSMISSION: BBC ONE
Q: Can you show the camera how you think you look when you abuse.
When you're actually doing the physical sexual act.
Q: Can you go to that person Oliver?
That's that person now.
PAUL KENYON: This is Father Oliver O'Grady, a former Catholic
priest. The church knew he was a child abuser.
Q: How about how you would greet that little girl you were grooming?
Just use the name Sally.
O'GRADY: Hi Sally, how you doing? Come here, I wanna give you a hug.
You're a sweetheart, you know that. You're very special to me. I
like you a lot.
KENYON: Instead of reporting O'Grady the church hid him from the
authorities. No mistake, but part of a secret church directive. The
man responsible for enforcing it was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now
Pope Benedict XVI.. County Wexford in Ireland. The diocese of Ferns
is a strip of towns and villages sprinkled along the rugged
coastline. Four years ago this priest, Father Sean Fortune, was at
the centre of Ireland's biggest child abuse enquiry. The scandal
exposed details of a secret Vatican decree which seemed to shelter
the perpetrators, and silence the victims of abuse. Colm O'Gorman
was one of its victims. He returned to his home town in Ferns to try
to come to terms with his past. When he was 14 years old Colm was
raped by Father Sean Fortune.
On Sunday mornings, after Fortune had abused me, he'd leave me in
his bed, in the bedroom in the house there, and come down and say
first mass. And I remember that he used to come back after saying
first mass, and... sometimes abuse me again. And then I'd have to go
downstairs with him and have breakfast, and then come down here for
the second mass, and sit and watch him say mass.
KENYON: The church knew
Father Fortune was a paedophile, but failed
to inform the police. Instead it moved him from Parish to Parish. He
was finally exposed, and killed himself on the eve of his criminal
trial. Along with the BBC, Colm began investigating who'd been
responsible for helping him evade detection. It turned out to be the
most senior church figure in the diocese, the Bishop of Ferns Doctor
Brendan Comiskey. We confronted him.
SARAH MacDONALD: Bishop Comiskey.
COMISKEY: [singing to himself as he steps out of car] We will
survive.... How are you?
McDONALD: I'm fine thanks. Sarah McDonald, BBC television. You're
looking very well.
Dr BRENDAN COMISKEY
Bishop of Ferns
(smiling warmly) Sarah, how are you?
MacDONALD: I'm very well thank you. I've just come to ask you just a
question about Sean Fortune. We just wanted to know....
COMISKEY: (smile gone he turns his back instantly and rapidly
retreats) I'm going to have mass at half past..
MacDONALD: (calling after the retreating figure) Why didn't you stop
COMISKEY: I.. I.. I moved...
MacDONALD: ..abusing young boys? Bishop Comiskey?
COMISKEY: ... when it was brought to my attention I moved him out of
the Parish, and sent him on treatment...
MacDONALD: Not for 6 years..
COMISKEY: ...for 2 years.
MacDONALD: Not for 6 years you didn't move him out of the Parish.
Why didn't you stop him?
COMISKEY: Thank you very much.
MacDONALD: Why didn't you stop him Bishop Comiskey?
COMISKEY: (enters building and firmly shuts door)
KENYON: Within weeks of that denial Bishop Comiskey was summoned to
COMISKEY: (making public statement) On Thursday last I tendered my
resignation as Bishop of Ferns to Pope John Paul. I travelled to
Rome later this week in the furthers of that process.
KENYON: Bishop Comiskey had gone, but in Ferns more stories of abuse
followed. Colm is now Director of one of Ireland's largest charities
supporting victims of child abuse. He campaigned for a government
inquiry, and got it. In October last year, when the Ferns report was
published, it exposed a cover up involving more than just one
The Ferns report makes disturbing reading. It details allegations of
the rape and abuse of over 100 girls and boys, made against 26
priests from this small, rural diocese. It says that there was a
culture of secrecy, and a fear of scandal, that led Bishops to place
the interests of the Catholic church ahead of the safety of
KENYON: The report was the first to link the churches behaviour to a
secret Vatican decree for dealing with paedophile priests. The more
Colm meets other Ferns victims the more convinced he's become that
the decree has been used to silence their allegations of abuse.
I'm looking here at the room that I was in 40... nearly 41 years
ago. That's four decades, and I'm still remembering what happened
inside, under that roof, in the peace and quiet of a Saturday
afternoon in that room, behind that window.
KENYON: Aidan Doyle was educated at a Catholic school run by
DOYLE: Terror struck at approximately 10 past 3 in the afternoon,
when he decided to come in and, as he put it, help me with the
practicing of my music. Then a moment later everything changes. I
was hauled back down onto the bed, I was told to lie down on the bed
with him, on the bed where I was made to grope his private area. I
was then... oh... (struggling and distressed) I was then mauled
really. It was: "You're going to be intimate with me, you're going
to get closer to me, you're going to be my special person." I think
all my hopes and dreams went then. It was just a question of when,
how, will it ever stop.
KENYON: After the sexual assault Aidan ran from the room. He told
another priest what had happened. But instead of going to the
authorities the priests invoked one of the most powerful tenets of
the Catholic faith - To bar Aidan or his abuser from ever speaking
DOYLE: He said to me 'I'm going to apply the seal of confession to
you, so that you must never talk about this, and it will be kept
secret.' And I remember saying that that evening. That why should I
have to keep quiet about something that I hadn't initiated?
KENYON: Aidan didn't know it, but an oath of silence was part of the
secret church decree called 'crimen sollicitationis' (crime of
solicitation). The directive was written in 1962, and Catholic
bishops worldwide are ordered to keep it locked away in the church
safe. It instructs them on how to deal with priests who solicit sex
from the confessional. But it also deals with any obscene external
acts with youths of either sex. Child abuse. Originally written in
Latin it imposes the strictest oath of secrecy on the child victim,
the priest dealing with the allegation, and any witnesses. Breaking
that oath means instant banishment from the Catholic Church -
I was told that.. simply told you don't talk about this again. It's
over, you'll get over it, it'll fade away in time, it'll go away,
you've nothing to worry about. You know it's all about forgiveness,
it's all about forgiving your offender as well as the offender
forgiving me. They were judge, jury and everything else. I didn't
have any opportunity to receive understanding. There was no
understanding brought about. I didn't know what this meant other
than that I must never talk about it again.
KENYON: Aidan was so intimidated he hasn't spoken of what happened
for 40 years, until now. His abuser has never been punished. To
uncover the significance of crimen sollicitationis Colm goes to meet
Father Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer. Once a Vatican high flyer, then he
criticized the church's handling of child abuse and was sacked.
Father TOM DOYLE
Crimen sollicitationis is indicative of a world-wide policy of
absolute secrecy and control of all cases of sexual abuse by the
clergy. But what you really have here is an explicit written policy
to cover up cases of child sexual abuse by the clergy, to punish
those who would call attention to these crimes by churchmen.
got a written policy that says the Vatican will control these
situations, and you also have, I think, clear written evidence of
the fact that all they're concerned about is containing and
controlling the problem. Nowhere in any of these documents does it
say anything about helping the victims. The only thing it does is
say that they can impose fear on the victims, and punish the
victims, for discussing or disclosing what had happened to them.
KENYON: The procedure was intended to protect a priests reputation
until the church had investigated. But in practice it can offer a
blueprint for cover-ups. The man in charge of enforcing it for 20
years was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the man made Pope last year. In
2001 he created the successor to the decree. In spirit it was the
same, overarching secrecy with a threat of excommunication. He sent
a copy to every Bishop in the world. But now he ordered that the
Vatican must have what it calls 'exclusive competence'. In other
words, all child abuse allegations must go exclusively to Rome.
FR. DOYLE: It's all controlled by the Vatican, and at the top of the
Vatican is the Pope. So Joseph Ratzinger was at the middle of this
for most of the years the crimen was enforced. He created the
successor to crimen, and now he's the Pope. This all says that the
policy and the systematic approach has not changed.
KENYON: Cardinal Ratzinger's new decree was a missed opportunity to
modernize the church's approach just as its biggest scandal was
about to break in America. Colm travelled there to discover whether
these were isolated cases sadly mishandled, or a Vatican policy of
COLM: At the same time as the scandals were erupting in Ireland in
2002, hundreds of cases were emerging here in the United States. A
US report tells us that almost four and a half thousand US priests
have been accused of raping or sexually abusing children.
epicenter was Boston. The same stories repeated time and
again. The church quietly shifting accused priests from parish to
parish. Allegations of a systematic cover-up. Colm tracks down
Patrick Wall, a former Benedictine monk who became the Vatican
approved enforcer of crimen sollicitationis in his Minnesota
Former Benedictine Monk
I was part of the system that was getting chewed up and being used
deceptively, and it was a real dark night of the soul. Everything
that I had trained for, you know, well over a decade to do, I found
out that I wasn't working for a holy institution but an institution
that was wholly concentrated on protecting itself.
KENYON: When a priest was accused of sexual abuse, the abuser was
slipped quietly away, and Father Patrick was moved in.
WALL: Cos most of the cases never saw the light of the day, hence we
were successful. That is really the ultimate definition of success
for the church, when it comes to a case of sexual abuse of a minor,
that no one ever finds out about it, that it gets shut down, that
it's kept quiet. If a pay off is needed, or if some kind of a
settlement is needed, it's done. We had a $7 million budget in 1996
to do such things. And.. but the thing that we had to have was a
confidentiality order where it absolutely had to be agreed that
everything was quiet. And you work with the victims as best you can,
but the ultimate desire is to maintain stability, peace and calm,
and the biggest thing you have to do is absolutely shut down the
KENYON: Disillusioned, Father Patrick left the priesthood and joined
lawyers acting for victims. One of its first cases was against
prolific abuser Father Oliver O'Grady, ordained in Ireland but
working in California.
O'GRADY: I swear by Almighty
God that the evidence that I shall give
in this deposition will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing
but the truth....
KENYON: He gave this deposition last year in a civil law suit where
he was accused of sodomizing a child over a hundred times.
Former Catholic Priest
[giving evidence in court] If the boy was tall or fat, that wouldn't
attract me. I tended to take boys that were rather slim built. I
tended to be attracted to the genital area, and there was a part of
me would kind of want to be in touch with that, or to discover that,
to see that in this particular boy.
KENYON: He admits to at least 30 victims, both boys and girls, over
Q: What is it.. what about the little girls did you find attractive?
O'GRADY: If she had a short dress or something like that I might
have been tempted to, and often did, maybe raise her dress in a kind
of subconscious way, or should I say in a way that she's not aware
that I'm doing that. But checking her out at the same time, you
know. You'd get a glimpse of her underwear.
Q: And did you find that arousing?
O'GRADY: I did, yes. The viewing was more attractive actually than
the touching in the girl's case.
Q: How about how you would greet the little girl you were grooming?
Just use the name Sally.
O'GRADY: Hi Sally, how you doing? Come here, I wanna give you a hug.
You're a sweetheart, you know that. You're very special to me. I
like you a lot. She might respond 'I like you too'. And that would
allow me to give a better hug to you.
KENYON: O'Grady was jailed for 7 years. He's now been deported and
lives in Ireland. His victims have now set their sights on his
Bishop, the Cardinal of Los Angeles, Roger Mahoney. He now stands
accused of shifting O'Grady from parish to parish to avoid scandal.
Q: Well, the bishop knew that you had abused in '76, correct?
Q: And abused earlier, correct?
Q: So, knowing that, would you have appointed yourself a pastor?
O'GRADY: No, I would not.
KENYON: In 2002 the American Catholic church responded to mounting
scandal by setting up an independent body called the National Review
Board. Its first job was to study the scale of the problem.
Judge ANNE BURKE
National Review Board 2002-2005
One of the interesting pieces that the study found was that it
wasn't epidemic in nature. It wasn't one diocese found to have more
cases than another. It was endemic, in which from the Atlantic to
the Pacific Ocean the same percentages of criminal sexual assault
against minors occurred in every diocese.
KENYON: But the review board quickly hit problems, with its Chairman
comparing the church's secrecy with that of the mafia.
CBS June 2003
Former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating has resigned as head of a
National Review Board looking into the Catholic church sex scandal
after serving only one year in that capacity. The contentious
departure followed Keating's interview with the LA Times, where he
compared some church leaders to La Cosa Nostra. In his resignation
letter Keating said, quote:
"To resist grand jury subpoenas, to
suppress the names of offending clerics, that is the model of a
criminal organization, not my church".
KENYON: The review board carried on, and drew up a child protection
charter for the American Catholic church. Around the Western world
similar allegations were prompting similar responses. In Britain the
Catholic church has introduced a comprehensive regime of child
protection guidelines. But such national policies have been
piecemeal, and the Vatican has no global child protection charter in
relation to abuse by priests. In America, despite the push for
transparency, when media attention shifted away the church continued
investigating allegations in secret, marginalizing the victims.
BURKE: We haven't seen sufficient evidence to show that we are
satisfied with what has been done, and I think we're not able to
trust. And that's getting reinforced periodically with the watering
down of the charter, the failure of some diocese' to remove priests
when there's an allegation. So I think we cannot trust at this
point. We would have thought that the last four years would have
taught us enough, and would have taught the Bishops enough to handle
the situation. But we see every week, every month, something new
happening that would lead you to believe that perhaps they didn't
learn from the past mistakes.
KENYON: There's clearly a tension between the rule of law and the
rule of the church, between child protection and the orders of
Father TOM DOYLE
There's no policy to help the victims, there's absolutely no policy
to help those who are trying to help the victims, and there's an
unwritten policy to lie about the existence of the problem. Then, as
far as the perpetrators, the priests, when they're discovered, the
systemic response has been not to investigate and prosecute, but to
move them. To move them from one place to another in a secret way,
and not reveal why they're being moved. So there's total disregard
for the victims, total disregard for the fact that you're gonna have
a whole new crop of victims in the next place. Now this is just...
this is not in the United States where this is happening. This is
all over the world. You see the same pattern and practice no matter
what country you go to.
KENYON: In some countries the Catholic church has little or no child
protection procedures, and, as Colm discovers, the Vatican sex crime
decree it all but fills the vacuums for some of its most trusting
I'm in Brazil, the largest Catholic country on the planet, home to
125 million faithful. It may look like paradise, but scratch beneath
the surface and you'll find extreme poverty, illiteracy, sex
tourism, and enormous child protection concerns. The Catholic church
may have been forced to learn hard lessons in the Western world, but
is it applying those lessons here?
KENYON: Six years ago a new priest arrived in the small rural
community of Annapolis in Central Brazil. His new congregation
didn't know it, but Father Tarcisio Tadeu Spricigo had been charged
with child abuse by police in Sao Paolo.
COLM: The priest was first accused of sexual abuse in 1991. He was
moved at least 4 times following that first allegation, and
continued to abuse in each parish to which he was appointed. He
finally ended up here in this tiny, and very, very impoverished
community. The Bishop who appointed him to this parish knew that he
was facing charges of sexual abuse in Sao Paolo. He has explained
since that he felt, or believed, that the priest had been cured. But
he hadn't. The abuse continued.
KENYON: The priest moved 3 doors away from Donna Elza and her 5 year
old grandson Warley. He offered to give Warley guitar lessons.
ELZA DA SILVA
Early one Sunday morning he woke me up and said:
"Granny, I know how
to make love". I asked him: "What do you mean? You are so small,
you're only 5, what are you talking about?" And he said: "If I try
to tell Mummy and Daddy they will beat me, and I'm scared". And I
said: "They won't beat you, tell me what has happened."
how I learned it was Father Tarcisio. We let the boy take guitar
lessons with him because we thought he was in safe hands, with a
good person, with a person who speaks the word of God every day in
church. I trusted the Father because I have been Catholic all my
life, and I never expected that this could have happened. When the
kids accost him in the streets they call him "the priests little
wife" and he feels so angry, so angry that he cries and cries. He
tells me often that he just wants to die.
KENYON: This was during the period when
instructed all allegations of child abuse to be sent to the Vatican.
So if it knew about the criminal charges against Father Tarcisio why
did it allow him to continue working as a priest in close contact
with young children?
COLM: We may be thousands of miles away from Rome, but this place is
directly linked to the Vatican. What gets me is it's the same story
every time and every place. Bishops appoint priests, who they know
have abused children in the past, to new parishes and new
communities, and more abuse happens. This boy was abused in 2002,
think about that, 2002, at exactly the same time as the scandals are
kicking off in Boston, in the United States, and in Ireland, at
exactly the same time that bishops and the Vatican are giving us
excuses for why it happened, and for what they're going to do to put
At exactly that time this boy is being raped here in
Brazil. So now this boy talks about wanting to die, he doesn't want
to stay alive any more. He can't handle it, he's being bullied at
school. They tell him that he's the "priests little girl." And the
church have done nothing. No therapy, no support, no connection, no
outreach, nothing! I'm fed up of saying it's not okay. (emotional)
It's not okay.
KENYON: Despite evidence that the priest had already abused a 13
year old boy in Sao Paolo, Donna Elza claims she was pressured by
both the church and the community to drop the allegations over her 5
year old grandson.
ELZA: The church was angry with me, and people in the church, people
in the street were running. They were running away from me. It felt
like I was excommunicated from my own community. But I wanted them
to believe, like I did, in my grandson.
COLM: That's the thing people don't understand. This family didn't
have much, but they had their faith. Now they don't have that.
ELZA: There's such a great sadness inside us. (pause - struggling to
retain composure but eyes full of tears) I fear my boy will grow
with that sadness in his mind, the boy growing with problems in his
COLM: It looked like the priest might get away with it again, and
then this was found. It's his diary. In it he details the kind of
child that he targets, and how to abuse them without getting caught.
I'll read you a section. Age: 7, 8, 9, 10. Sex: masculine. Social
condition: poor. Family condition: preferably a son without a
father, only a lonely mother or a sister.
Where to look: on the
streets, in schools and in families. How to attract them: guitar
lessons, choir, altar boy. Very important, ingratiate yourself with
the family. Possibilities: a boy who's affectionate, calm, and is
appreciative. Needy of a father, and has no sexual scruples. My
attitudes: see what the boy's like, then ask the boy to give himself
to me as payment for receiving a present.
KENYON: Father Tarcisio's decades of abuse were finally brought to
an end. Not because of any action by Cardinal Ratzinger's Vatican
office, but by the police. Last year Father Tarcisio was jailed for
15 years. The Catholic church has 50 million children within its
Father TOM DOYLE
The Vatican has no child protection policy. The only policy they
have is to protect the perpetrators, protect the.. to protect the
Vatican, to cover this up, to keep it as deeply buried in secrecy as
possible, and to prevent as much damage to the institution as
possible. So it's damage control.
Ratzinger's instruction to send all allegations of
child abuse to the Vatican is proving frustrating for police and
social workers trying to catch and jail priests suspected of abuse.
This is Father Joseph Henn, a choir master. The picture was taken
during his first assignment as a young priest in Phoenix, Arizona.
It was around the time he met 14 year old altar boy Rick Rivezo.
My parents knew that I was spending time with him, and we went.. he
would come to our house a lot. I remember my father telling me that
he had an open door policy with Jo, he can come over any time he
wanted. He was part of the family.
KENYON: Once the relationship with Rick's family was secure, Father
Henn's abuse began.
RIVEZO: What he would do with us is he would take us out, and we'd
go to these different things. Whether it would be a funeral, or a
wedding, or that kind of thing. And there were times when he would
take us swimming. After swimming we would go into the rectory and he
would ask me to.. he would ask me to remove my trunks so that he can
put them in the dryer. And he would take his and put them in the
dryer. And he'd give me a towel, and same for him. And he'd tell me
to lay on the bed.
So now he's sitting on me, facing me, and I'm
facing up, and he would massage me on my chest. And when he would go
down is when he would stroke me, and go back up and down again. And
he just did that over and over again. I wouldn't want to look at
him, I didn't want to see him, I didn't want to see anything below
his stomach. I didn't want to feel anything that he was doing, so my
concentration was constantly my eyes closed, and I would have my
hands out cos I knew his legs were there and I didn't want to touch
them. And I'd just turn my head and close my eyes and put myself
somewhere else and wait for him to be done.
KENYON: The man who dealt with his case was
Rick Romley, a high
profile district attorney in Phoenix. Before retiring this year he
convicted 8 paedophile priests in his diocese and, uniquely, forced
a written confession from the local bishop admitting that he
knowingly hid child sexual abuse from the police.
Former Phoenix District Attorney
I will tell you that the secrecy, the... I mean the obstruction that
I saw during my investigation was unparalleled in my entire career
as a DA here in Phoenix Arizona. It was so difficult to obtain any
information from the church at all. In fact we knew of certain
meetings that had taken place, and yet no documentation was ever
produced to be able to, you know, show that that meeting had even
KENYON: The Vatican's official line is that it's sex crime code is
purely for internal use, and not intended to hinder civil
ROMLEY: You know, when we started looking at it I mean it was really
interesting. I mean we came across, in the canons for the church,
that there are supposed to be secret archives to where this type of
material is to provided and not given to civil authorities no matter
what the circumstances. We had information that there is an
instruction from the Nuncio, who is Ambassador status, to shift all
this, you know, incriminating type of information to him because
under our.. under the law we could not subpoena that material
because he would have protected status as an Ambassador from the
I think that that's really what the story is. Is that the
church.. the church's failure to acknowledge such a serious problem.
But more than that, it is not a passiveness. It is a.. it was an
openly obstructive way of not allowing civil authorities to try to
stop the abuse within the church. I mean they fought us every step
of the way.
KENYON: His toughest battle involved Father
Henn and two other
priests who fled abroad to escape American prosecutors.
I knew that these priests owed a vow of obedience to Rome, to the
Vatican. And so I decided to write Rome and ask them, now that
formal charges had been brought, to instruct them to follow their
orders and to come back and surrender themselves so that the court
system could take the case as we wanted it to. And I've got to tell
you, I was very surprised. I'd written to Cardinal Sodano, who is
the Secretariat of State, and I basically asked him could he
instruct these priests to come back, and they just basically
returned it, and they said they item's been returned because the
sender has refused to accept the correspondence.
They did not even
open it, they didn't even acknowledge or give me any type of
response. They just refused to accept it. A church with supposedly
the moral authority to do what is right had miserably failed, you
know, one of the most fundamental things, and that's to stop the
abuse of children. And they had a real opportunity here to make a..
I mean to make a powerful statement to the world. To say 'everybody
is accountable, to protect our children is important'. And they
didn't even open the envelope.
KENYON: Father Henn, the priest whose outings to the swimming pool
with Rick Rivezo ended in abuse, is now wanted on 13 molestation
charges brought by a grand jury in the United States. But he's no
longer there. He's here in Rome, sheltered by the Vatican, and
fighting extradition from the headquarters of his religious order,
the Salvatorians. The Vatican has not compelled him to return to
America to face the charges.
COLM: The most extraordinary thing about this story is that Father
Henn isn't alone. A US newspaper did a series of investigative
reports recently called 'Runaway Priests', and it discovered that
there are over 7 US priests who face allegations of child sexual
abuse living with the support of the church here, in and around the
KENYON: The Vatican, the moral compass of the Catholic church, may
well be holding evidence of other child abusing priests from around
the world. But instead of cooperation and transparency, many feel
the church's directives create obstruction and cover up in practice.
There's one man who has the power to change that.
FR. DOYLE: Cardinal
Ratzinger, who now is Pope, could tomorrow get
up and say 'here's the policy for throughout the church. Full
disclosure to the civil authorities. Absolute isolation and
dismissal of any convicted cleric. Complete openness and
transparency. Complete openness of all financial situations. Stop
all barriers to the legal process. Completely cooperate with the
civil authorities everywhere.' He could do that.
KENYON: The Vatican has failed to respond to repeated requests for
an interview about the cases featured in this film. Father Joseph Henn has lost his fight against extradition to the US. He's since
fled the Salvatorian headquarters in Rome where he was under house
arrest, and is believed to be hiding somewhere in Italy. There's an
international warrant out for his arrest.
Former Catholic priest
Oliver O'Grady served 7 years in an American prison for child sex
abuse. Despite American psychiatrists labelling him a serial abuser
who needed lifelong monitoring he was deported to his native Ireland
in 2001. Because he offended in the US O'Grady does not appear on
the Irish Sex Offenders' Register, and there are no restrictions on
his access to children.
Q: So the abuse and the molestation was almost a full time avocation
during your entire priesthood.
O'GRADY: I would say it was a significant part of the early
Q: Of the victims you did molest what percentage do you think were
boys, and what were girls?
O'GRADY: I think I'd say three quarters boys, one quarter girls.
Q: What else happened to you as a consequence of abusing?
O'GRADY: Actually nothing happened. Life continued.