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Vatican’s 1997 Letter on Clergy Abuse: Smoking Gun or Soggy Match?

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The blogosphere has erupted over whether this newly revealed 1997 letter from a senior Vatican official to Irish bishops constitutes a “smoking gun,” because it expresses concerns about a proposed mandatory reporting policy — now implemented — of abuse cases to secular authorities.

On the one hand, it sure doesn’t look good — at the very least, it’s “certainly a public relations embarassment,” according to National Catholic Reporter’s John L. Allen Jr.. On the other hand, as Allen and GetReligion’s analysis explain, it’s not really anything new or surprising, either.

Some links:

Meanwhile, clergy abuse victim advocates have been stepping up their efforts, with attorney Mitchell Garabedeian releasing a list of accused abusers in the Boston Archdiocese and attorney Jeff Anderson opening a European branch of his law firm to aid in going after accused abusers in Ireland and elsewhere.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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Robert C

posted January 20, 2011 at 12:49 pm


More much ado about nothing.



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Apuleius Platonicus

posted January 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm


Opus Dei is probably behind the hysterically overblown “smoking gun” claims about this letter. That way the Church can respond legalistically to technical arguments over what does and does not constitute criminal evidence.
There is little room for doubt that the letter shows an intent to deceive the public, and collusion between the highest levels of the Vatican with the highest levels of the Church in Ireland to protect known child molesters. But no one has had any doubts about that for a while, have they?



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nnmnns

posted January 20, 2011 at 5:48 pm


Some priests abuse some kids. It’s bad but not amazing that in any group, not least one as unusual as priests, there would be perverts.
Some bishops and archbishops and popes cover up the abuses for decades and transfer the abusers to new posts where they abuse again. They choose to protect their organization rather than the children who trust them. Very bad, especially for an outfit that claims a patent on morality, when we find find such rank immorality clear up to the very top.
The Vatican denies it ordered the coverups and now we find further proof they lied about that, too. If they had a shred of moral legitimacy it’s gone now.



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Robert C

posted January 20, 2011 at 8:53 pm


The more the left attacks the catholic church the greater their interest in getting you to forget their high points, like this one.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6h3G-lMZxjo



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nnmnns

posted January 20, 2011 at 9:17 pm


Why would it just be the left attacking the behavior of the RCC? Is that behavior the right finds acceptable? Is it behavior you find acceptable?



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kenneth

posted January 20, 2011 at 10:06 pm


If ANY other person or organization on Earth had a tenth of the damning evidence against them that the Catholic Church has, they would be nailed to the wall with a RICO prosecution. Every scrap of property and bank account would be seized and everyone involved would be sent up for centuries of jail time. There is 50+ years of evidence of an active and conscious conspiracy to enable and cover up crimes crossing state and national boundaries. This is an organization which has knowingly aided in the commission of thousands of felonies, helped perpetrators evade justice, bribed and intimidated victims and witnesses and committed money laundering on a vast scale to do it all. Whether anyone likes it or not, this is the textbook definition of racketeering and a continuing criminal enterprise. Since our police and prosecutors don’t have the will to go after them in any meaningful way, I hope the plaintiff’s attorneys bleed these thugs into financial beggary.



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MH

posted January 21, 2011 at 9:36 am


Robert C, I don’t see how the Hillary mash-up is relevant, nor do I see how anger at the clergy sex abuse scandal is a left-right issue.



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Michael in Abu Dhabi

posted January 23, 2011 at 8:21 am


MH, when the actual significant amount of abuse by priest was being committed in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Catholics were quite solidly voting Democratic. Nobody much bothered about the abuse issue of priests as it was and still is prevalent everywhere else in society. And the country and society had many other things on its plate like the race issue, the Vietnam war, etc.
Also, during this time frame it was “common knowledge” that the Church would fade into history soon enough anyway, so no attention was focused on this abuse thing.
In the 2000 election Catholics went for George Bush in the most angry election in memory. They had been swinging more Republican in the 2 decades before then, but this was a big factor in the election of Bush.
It is interesting to note that the actual abuse problem of decades earlier and the problems with the seminaries was largely cleaned up at this time. So when a few things came together in Boston in 2002 all the anger about the 2000 election, the Catholic position on abortion, homosexuality, etc exploded. The actual abuse issue SHOULD HAVE BEEN A SCANDAL IN 1970, but not 2002 when it was all but statistically over.



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Michael in Abu Dhabi

posted January 23, 2011 at 8:31 am


The letter does not say not to alert police and does not say to alert police. In plain English it only says to be careful.
The letter only says what anyone would say in private. I could actually write this letter myself and say the same thing. I have a problem with “manditory reporting”, and this could lead to crank calling and witch hunts. Nobody really does any reporting unless the evidence is overwhelming and the case is hard.
The evidence has to be real, the victims should be the ones to report to the police, not the bishops unless the case is overwhelming and definate and involves a small child. Sometimes the victims do not want the police involved. I know this is a debatable issue as the law does not seem to consider the rights and privacy of the victim anymore than the accused. The victim becomes the property of the state as much as the accused.



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MH

posted January 23, 2011 at 3:07 pm


Michael in Abu Dhabi, let me get this straight.
If Catholic parishoners were voting Democratic and the Church does something wrong, then it’s the Democrats fault when people finally find out about it?
Are the Democrats also at fault outside the US in places such as Ireland which were fairly traditional?



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Michael in Abu Dhabi

posted January 23, 2011 at 10:27 pm


Let us get this straight MH.
Firstly, the Church does not abuse minors, people (priests, bus drivers, schoold teachers, baseball players) abuse minors.
Secondly, if the rank and file practicing Catholics were voting Democratic from 1980 till 2010 instead of swinging Republican 80% of the time, and if the culture wars regarding homosexuals and abortion were not occuring, you, MH would not give a flying flip about what a few percent of Catholic priests did 40 years ago and we would not be having this discussion. We may be having a discussion, but not this.
Hopefully this helps.



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MH

posted January 23, 2011 at 10:56 pm


Michael in Abu Dhabi, actually it doesn’t. You neatly ignored Ireland or other countries which aren’t related to US politics and its big news there. Also that the scandal is not that actions of some priests, but the Catholic hierarchy who did not report abuse allegations to the civil authorities and who reassigned the offenders to other locations.



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Robert C

posted January 24, 2011 at 4:00 am


As is typical of the bitter left wing atheists who try to bludgeon the rest of us with this issue, your facts and perceptions are wrong. “The Catholic Hierarchy” is like the US Senate, diverse, individual and not inclined to act at a moments notice. They rarely do anything as a group because they are not structured that way and it would be like herding cats. Did some individual bishops 20 years ago decide not to deal with the issue, misguidedly try to protect the church and transfer the problem? Yes. Why? Because it was easy; that is how most corporate structures acted up to that time and before; no one least of all the bishops realized the impact of abuse; most of the cases were undocumented with no proof; most of the cases were with older teenaged boys some of them quite willing; the process of adjucating such issues was laid out in canon law which often made handling the problems unweildly; and pre-eminently at that time no one was required to report anything to anyone, that was up to the victim, sadly. Do not mitigate the fact that the left has grabed this issue in order to mug the church because the left wants validation for abortion rights, for gay sex, for women’s in roads into clerical jobs, on and on. They are fed in this by the professional ‘victims’ associations, which although some sympathy is understandable, do themselves a great injustice by wallowing in continued ‘woundology’. Make no mistake, if the left wants to validate an issue and your in the way, they will callously plan their attack and relentlessly dreg up anything, doesn’t have to be facts, salient, timely or applicable to make their case. The difference is that thirty years ago the american conservative movement was very cocktail sandwichy, whitetoast, milk shake types while the left were union trained, picket carrying moonbats, frothed to the teeth from being on the front lines in all the cause celebs of the 60’s/70’s. Today, thats’ changed, and that is a good thing for political balance. Abu Dhabi is correct.



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Nicole Neroulias

posted January 24, 2011 at 10:04 am


Robert C, where on earth do you get the information that most of the clergy abuse victims were older, “quite willing” teenagers?



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Michael in Abu Dhabi

posted January 24, 2011 at 11:08 am


Nicole, there are 2 groups for statistics here. The body of priests who were accused by someone of some level of abuse, and the body of those claiming to be abused. I think I know what Robert C. is thinking about. He is not careful, but I suspect he understands the 2 trends.
Of those younger than about 12, and this would be about 40% of the total, most of these were abused by only 200 priests out of the 100,000 or so who served in the U.S. during the period of 1950-2002. These 200 priests are the TRUE pediphiles. The average one, like the Grogens, Porters, Gauthiers, abused dozens of small children. This is 0.2% of the total 100,000. And this is consistant with the percentage of pedophiles in the general population.
Of the remaining victims over 12 years old, which were about 60% of the victim total, a big majority are boys. And of the remaining priests, except for the 200 true pedophiles, about 60% had one person complain about them and about 30% had maybe 2 people complain about them.
The priests, about 3000 in number are really not pedophiles but ephebophilic homosexuls. And most of their victims are homosexuals.
Most accused priest had only one accuser. These are mostly ephebophilic homosexuals, emotionally immature.
There were some level of accusation against about 4200 priests, of which about 2500 had some credible significant complaint. Some complaints were horrific, some were little more than inappropriate talk.
About 500-600 priests have been charged of a crime in the U.S., but only 200 convicted.
So to correct Robert C. I would say that most of the accused priests abused older “quite willing” teenagers.



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Robert C

posted January 24, 2011 at 11:09 am


Interesting that you read my posts Nicole. The comment reads though, “most of the cases were with older teenaged boys some of them quite willing”. Notice the ‘some’. I am not sure your disputing that the percentages of the reported abuse cases were teenagers, nor the difference between pedophilia and ephebophilia, as has been discussed here many times, but the ‘some’. I know personally of several cases from Boston where the priest was prosecuted and the ‘victims’ were complicit. The circumstances occured at a time when I was younger, and very involved in the gay community. Later when these cases were used as part of the attack on Law, the politics at the time insured a rather ‘witchunt’ styled atmosphere, despite the fact there was testimony to the contrary. Thanks for asking.



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Robert C

posted January 24, 2011 at 11:14 am


Thanks for trying to clarify Dhabi but no need to ‘correct’. Nicole knows the difference between the dysfunctional mindsets. She was refering to the ‘some’, and I was refering to circumstances which I personally was aware.



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MH

posted January 24, 2011 at 2:28 pm


Robert C, you don’t know me, my political, or religious views. So your “bitter left wing atheists” claim is an irrelevant personal attack.
With regards to group dynamics. Yes people within command structures can act autonomously. However, when the same bad decision is made repeatedly, it is an indicator of a systemic problem within an organization. In this case you have Bishops covering up actives which were crimes. A cover up being the easy course of action is not relevant, they were covering up a crime.
Since minors can not legally consent, it is immaterial if some of them were willing.
As this phenomena happened in many countries US culture and politics is likewise immaterial.



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Robert C

posted January 24, 2011 at 3:45 pm


There are ‘systemic problems’ with every organization that exists, and there are innumerable instances of bad decisons being made repeatedly in every single one of them, many that have covered up crimes. What is material is that in the midst of the 20 year old statistics, still often cited, are cases where there was no proof, no trial, no defense. Once whittled down you have a pool of circumstances no more unique to that church than any other. The fact that the left dwells there is indicitve of intent. That intent itself could possibly be criminal. The bitter left wing comment was generalized and not specific to you. If you have taken it personally then maybe you lean more leftist than you admit.



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MH

posted January 24, 2011 at 4:30 pm


Robert C, you said, “As is typical of the bitter left wing atheists who try to bludgeon the rest of us with this issue, your facts and perceptions are wrong.”
That statement is not generalized. It was specifically directed at me.



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Robert C

posted January 24, 2011 at 8:54 pm


Sounds that way doesn’t it, but I actually had someone else in mind. Shhh though, we don’t want to ignite a brush fire again, do we? :)



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Michael in Abu Dhabi

posted January 25, 2011 at 8:12 am


ML writes “Since minors can not legally consent, it is immaterial if some of them were willing”
We I would not say immaterial. I suppose it is called “statutory” rape, which means “according to the state or because the state say so”, as opposed to “aggrevated rape”.
OK, the state says the teenagers are “rape victioms” or “statutory rape victims”, but classical Christian understanding is that since they are over the basic age of reason they would be called “sinners”.
I guess there lies a huge difference in tone. If a teen wants to be a victim deserving sympathy and not do anything wrong in the eyes of the state they should have their sex (straight or homosexual) with person or persons over the age of consent. That seems to be what is implied in much of these discussions.
However according to classical Christian understanding, if he does that, he (or she) is still a sinner who has sinned.



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MH

posted January 25, 2011 at 9:25 am


Michael in Abu Dhabi, I don’t get your reply or your use of scare quote.
The scandal is about the law, not classical Christian understanding, or sympathy/antipathy towards the teens. It is about the adult priests and their superiors in the command chain that are the issue.



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Robert C

posted January 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm


No more an issue than the chain of authority in the Gosnell case. The president of Planned Parenthood and the head of the Penn Department of Health anf the Govenor should be subject to the same litigation for criminal acts that you imply to should hold for those church ‘superiors’. The left has singularly made it an issue, let’s see if the medicine is bitter all around.



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MH

posted January 25, 2011 at 3:00 pm


Robert C, the rule of law is not a left/right issue, and it should apply to everyone. If someone in the chain of command in that case had awareness of a criminal act, then it should apply to them as well. Particularly if there are duty to warn laws on the book their.



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Robert C

posted January 26, 2011 at 1:18 pm


I agree. As it applies in this country. Remember there are other sets of laws. In that case, they did and it should. I wonder if the Grand Jury, and then the politically sensitive prosecutors will extend their scope beyond the butcher and his accolytes. If they react like the MSM and the the left, they will simply ignore the ramifications and subsequent levels of responsibilty, which is easy to extend to all abortion rights organizations in that state. Time will tell if justice is blind.



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antonio

posted January 28, 2011 at 11:58 am


Did you read Fatima La Salette and the Antichrist Book by Daniel-John Ezekiel de Nostradamus – I stumbled on it recently; it is truly a must read. http://www.amazon.co.uk/s?_encoding=UTF8&search-alias=books-uk&field-author=Daniel-John%20Ezekiel%20de%20Nostradamus



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