(TMU) — In a move that is being greeted as long overdue, Pope Francis has stricken down Vatican secrecy rules in cases of sexual abuse that had previously been shielded by the Catholic Church’s highest levels of confidentiality.
The church had previously defended the rule known as “pontifical secrecy” on the grounds that it protected the privacy of victims and reputations of the accused, but critics claimed that the rule protected clergy accused of sexual misconduct and abuse. The new policy will also allow victims to see the previously top-secret information about their cases, and will give them a degree of freedom to speak about their experiences.
Critics had accused the church of using pontifical secrecy to protect pedophiles, silence victims, and prevent scrutiny from law enforcement bodies.
The rule also covered a range of administrative subjects within the Vatican including the nomination of cardinals and various types of internal investigations. Violations of pontifical secrecy can result in excommunication, reports CNN.
In February, the secrecy rule came under fire at a historic Vatican summit focusing on ongoing efforts to combat sexual abuse by clergy. Church leaders had accused certain officials of hiding behind what they saw as outdated rules that shielded the highest levels of Vatican officialdom from transparency.
In a church decree approved by Francis and signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the new policy read:
“The person who files the report, the person who alleges to have been harmed and the witnesses shall not be bound by any obligation of silence with regard to matters involving the case.”
The special declaration by the pope, known as a rescript, comes into force immediately.
In a second rescript, Francis also banned the possession or distribution of “pornographic images of minors under the age of eighteen, for purposes of sexual gratification.” The previous Vatican age limit considered children to be only those under 14.
Joshua McElwee, the Vatican correspondent of the National Catholic Reporter, told NPR’s Morning Edition:
“It’s something the abuse survivors and advocates have called for for decades. Vatican officials I have spoken to have said this was a move to show that they’re serious about this. They want the church officials across the world to be working with local authorities. In order to do that, they had to get rid of the secrecy requirement.
And they’re also hoping that it allows abuse survivors who come forward with cases to more easily follow how the church is responding and what measures are being taken to make sure kids are safe.”
However, representatives of abuse victims believe that while the pope’s belated move is welcome, further transparency is required.
Mattias Katsch, an abuse survivor and founder of Ending Clergy Abuse, told CNN:
“For a long time, representatives of victims/survivors from all over the world have demanded that papal secrecy be lifted in cases of sexual abuse of children by priests.
At the end of February at the Vatican, on the fringes of the crisis summit on abuse, the international alliance of survivors and activists Ending Clergy Abuse made this demand. The decision of the Vatican is therefore an overdue step.
Now it is important that further steps are taken towards transparency—also with regard to the thousands of acts of abuse cases stored in Vatican chambers and palaces. These files must be made available for independent review and investigation.”
Boston, Massachusetts, attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented hundreds of abuse survivors, greeted what she called a “small step” toward transparency. He told NPR:
“It is also now time for Pope Francis to mandate that crimes be reported to the police by bishops, religious superiors and others and to make documents and testimony public with the appropriate redactions of victims’ names.”
Trump “Pretty Likely” to Land in Jail For Many Alleged Crimes, Legal Analyst Says
Legal experts continue to say that it remains likely that former President Donald Trump could land in jail if convicted on one of the many legal challenges he faces.
Throughout his life, Trump has been involved in a number of lawsuits – both as the subject and instigator of them – but he is currently facing no less than 29 lawsuits and is also the subject of several criminal lawsuits, including one which saw his tax returns opened up to lawyers.
Trump is being investigated for potential bank, tax and insurance fraud by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for what Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office calls “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization,” reports the New York Times.
The former head of state denies any malfeasance and has said that he is “proud” of his tax returns.
However, legal analyst Jay Michaelson told Daily Beast’s The New Abnormal that Trump is “pretty likely” to face jail time if found guilty.
“Trump’s lawyers will always come up with something, but there should be no reason why the grand jury won’t get these financial records tomorrow,” Michaelson said.
“Will he go to jail for, like, the rest of his life? Probably no,” he continued. “Is it possible that this would lead to criminal charges that would carry jail time? I would say that’s pretty likely, and we could have a grand jury indictment fairly soon.”
Last month, the Supreme Court rejected the Trump legal team’s appeal to keep his tax returns closed from prosecutors. The move opens the door to the returns being shown to a grand jury in New York.
Following the ruling, Trump denounced the move as a result of him being a victim of “’the greatest political witch hunt in the history of our country.”
“In the meantime, murders and violent crime are up in New York City by record numbers, and nothing is done about it,” he added. “Our elected officials don’t care. All they focus on is the persecution of President Donald J. Trump.”
“I will fight on, just as I have, for the last five years (even before I was successfully elected), despite all of the election crimes that were committed against me. We will win!”
Minneapolis Police Lieutenant Calls Chauvin’s Use of Force On George Floyd “Totally Unnecessary”
The head of the Minneapolis Police Department’s homicide division flatly denounced former officer Derek Chauvin’s use of force against George Floyd as “totally unnecessary.”
Lt. Richard Zimmerman testified on Friday about his over three decades of police training and the lethal dangers of the techniques used on Floyd on May 25, 2020.
Chauvin, a white former Minneapolis police officer, is currently facing trial for his role in the killing of Floyd, 46, a Black man, by pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes as he lay handcuffed on the ground.
“Once you handcuff a person you need to get them out of the prone position as quickly as possible, because it restricts their breathing,” Zimmerman said, adding that being handcuffed “stretches the muscles back through your chest and it makes it more difficult to breathe.”
“That would be the top tier, the deadly force,” he said, noting that escalating to such a degree goes against use-of-force training at MPD. “Because if your knee is on someone’s neck, that can kill them.”
When asked if such force was necessary, Zimmerman responded that it was “totally unnecessary” given that any potential threat from Floyd had been subdued.
“First of all, pulling him down to the ground facedown and putting your knee on the neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for,” Zimmerman said. “I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger, if that’s what they felt. And that’s what they would have to feel to use that type of force.”
Continuing, Zimmerman noted that handcuffing a person quickly alters the permissible use of force that can be used in a situation.
“Once a person is cuffed, the threat level goes down all the way to, they’re cuffed, how can they really hurt you?” he said. “That person is handcuffed, and the threat level is just not there.”
At that stage, the use of force quickly declines, he added.
“If they become less combative, you may just have them sit down on the curb,” Zimmerman said. “The idea is to calm the person down and if they are not a threat to you at that point, you try to, you know, to help them so that they’re not as upset as they may have been in the beginning.”
Derek Chauvin has faced at least eighteen complaints during his 19-year career with the Minneapolis police, including six times in which prosecutors claim the former officer used force against arrestees.
However, these incidents – like George Floyd’s own criminal record – won’t be introduced to jurors in the Chauvin trial so that the defendant isn’t punished for prior misconduct, and is instead evaluated on the charges he faces for the death of Floyd: third- and second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Jeffrey Epstein Threatened to Feed Young Woman to Alligators After Raping Her, New Lawsuit Claims
The disgraced pedophile Jeffrey Epstein may be dead, but he is facing a fresh allegation that he raped a 26-year-old real estate broker and threatened to feed her to alligators, all with the help of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, according to the brutal details of a new lawsuit.
In the federal complaint filed last week, the woman – identified only as Jane Doe – claims that Epstein sexually abused her at his Palm Beach estate in 2008 with the “assistance” of Maxwell, who is currently facing a range of charges for the sexual exploitation of minors, sex trafficking and perjury.
According to Jane Doe, a married woman and devout Muslim of Turkish descent, following the rape Epstein and Maxwell drove the woman to pick up her 8-year-old son before stopping the car “at a large body of water that was infested with alligators.”
“Epstein then ushered the Plaintiff to the body of water and told her in explicit detail that, as had happened to other girls in the past, she would end up in this body of water and be devoured by the alligators, should she ever reveal what Epstein had done to her,” the suit filed in South Florida Federal Court reads.
The federal filing, reported first by the Miami Herald, also notes that she was “repeatedly raped” by Maxwell and Epstein, even in the presence of her young son, and that Epstein forced her to have sex with other men, including one man identified as a local judge.
Doe also alleges that she was forced to “unwanted and unnecessary vaginal surgery” to give the false impression that she was a virgin, and that the “violent and illegal procedure” was botched and left Doe “permanently sexually dysfunctional.”
According to Doe, she met Epstein and Maxwell at a barbecue hosted by her boss in late 2006 or early 2007 before being hired to find a property for Epstein.
It was at that point, she claims, that she was recruited and groomed by Maxwell to be abused by the multimillionaire pedophile.
In the following months, Epstein and Maxwell sex trafficked her while threatening her with rape, deportation, arrest for prostitution, and having her son seized from her.
“While making these threats, Epstein emphasized his personal connections to many powerful actors within the legal system and elsewhere whom he asserted would not hesitate to act on his behalf,” the suit noted.
Epstein also told Doe, who looked young for her age, to tell clients that she was 17. Additionally, she claims that she was coerced by the pair into helping them sex traffic other young women, including some believed to be underage.
The details of the case are especially gut-wrenching, even by the standards of the Epstein case.
Epstein, 66, was found hanged in a lone cell in the special housing unit (SHU) of a federal Manhattan prison in Manhattan on Aug. 10, 2019, while facing a potential prison sentence of up to 45 years on charges of pedophilia and sex trafficking. A city medical examiner ruled the death a suicide.
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