MANILA, Philippines—Out of the 115-member conclave that will elect the next Pope, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle is one of only two cardinals who show “promising” signs of dealing adequately with the sex abuse scandal rocking the Roman Catholic Church, according to a US-based group of clergy sex abuse victims.
In a statement posted on its website, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said Tagle and Vienna Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schonborn were the “most promising candidates” for the papal throne for sex abuse victims.
The group also identified Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin but he is not a member of the College of Cardinals.
The statement, titled “SNAP’s list of ‘least worst’ papal candidates,” said the three candidates “were chosen based on their words and actions with regard to the clergy sex abuse crisis.”
The group said it based its assessment on mainstream media accounts, legal filings and victims’ experiences.
SNAP came out with the statement after releasing on Wednesday a list of 12 cardinals who it said were the worst candidates for the papacy.
“Cardinal Tagle is one of very few prelates who have spoken clearly about the ‘culture of shame’ that surrounds victims of sex abuse. He has said that the Church has contributed to this culture, and that in order to move on, the Church must find ways to help victims heal,” SNAP said.
“At a talk in the Philippines, Tagle noted that ‘media practitioners observe that when they report on abuses committed by politicians, financiers, etc, the Church appreciates them. But when they expose anomalies within the Church, they are branded as anti-Church and anti-Catholic, even if the information comes from people close to the Church,’” it said.
The group quoted Tagle as saying that the Church should also be prepared to be scrutinized by media and that the norms of fairness and truthfulness should be applied to all, “especially the victims.”
“In 2012, Tagle spoke at a Vatican abuse symposium, in mentioning the cover-ups, he argued that the Church must stop ‘waiting for a bomb’ and instead should prevent the scandal from happening, rather than try to ‘prevent it from exploding’,” SNAP said.
The group said one of its members on the American west coast was assaulted in the 1990s by a Filipino priest, Fr. Jose Superiaso, and that he pleaded guilty in 2005.
“Tagle has reportedly been helpful in starting the process of defrocking her perpetrator,” SNAP said.
According to the group, the Philippines has “also seen horrific clergy sex abuse and cover-up cases.”
“A brave and beloved SNAP member, Rita Milla, was abused by seven Filipino priests in California beginning when she was 16. After two years of abuse, her original abuser… passed Rita on to six other priests who violated her as well,” SNAP said.
“Two years after that, Milla became pregnant by one of these priests who then sent her to the Philippines so she could keep her pregnancy and baby a secret,” it added.
The group said that Milla spoke with the bishop of Laoag during that time but the bishop told her that “he would help her when she returned to California if she kept the baby a secret.” Milla had the baby in 1982.
A Church source, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, said the Filipino bishop identified in the SNAP statement is now “very old, retired and has difficulty hearing.”
“These predators were from the Laoag diocese and the Los Angeles archdiocese. During this time, Tagle was a priest in the Diocese of Imus,” SNAP said.
Msgr. Joselito Asis, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) secretary general, said the Church in the Philippines has already formulated a set of “pastoral guidelines” to prevent the sexual abuse of children.
“We have submitted these guidelines to the Vatican for approval. They are now being reviewed,” Asis said in an interview.
He said the Church and its personnel were committed to fight child abuse and were using the Canon Law to deal with it.
“So far, we have (no report) here in the Philippines. Pending the approval of the pastoral guidelines by the Vatican, Canon Law will be followed,” Asis said.