Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


On sex abuse, Benedict now vs. then

posted by Rod Dreher

This story on Pope Benedict and the current sex abuse crisis reminds me once again why John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter is an invaluable source in helping us understand what’s happening and why. It’s a long story, but in it, Allen explains how Cardinal Ratzinger, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the Vatican’s office responding to the sex abuse claims), finally came to understand the magnitude of the crisis, and to turn things around from Rome when he became pope.
I can tell you something from my own reporting years ago. Benedict was in as much denial as anybody else in Rome, until 2002, when his fax machine at his Vatican office began disgorging round the clock reports from American dioceses detailing the horrors of the scandal from American bishops’ files. A source of mine in the Vatican likened that fax machine to a transatlantic sewer line, disgorging foulness round the clock. It woke Cardinal Ratzinger up — but John Paul wouldn’t let him move against men like the odious Marcial Maciel. It’s not an accident that the CDF didn’t begin to move against Maciel until John Paul was on his deathbed. Things really did change under Benedict, and it’s simply wrong to claim that it’s business as usual in Rome. But there’s the other shoe now dropping. Here’s Allen:

By the time the crisis in Ireland erupted last year, a new Vatican script seemed to be in place. Papal statements of concern were quickly issued, and a summit of Irish bishops and senior Vatican officials was swiftly convened for mid-February. Similarly in Germany, Zollitsch was in the pope’s office briefing him on the crisis less than a month after it first blew up.
For anyone who recalled the slow and defensive response to the American situation eight years earlier, the change in Rome seemed almost Copernican.
Therein, however, lies the rub: relatively few people know or care how far the Vatican, or the pope, have come over the past eight years.
Insiders rightly insist that Benedict XVI deserves credit for breaking the wall of silence, and for demonstrating that no abuser will be protected on his watch. Yet for most outsiders, meaning the vast majority of Catholics and virtually everyone else on the planet, all that amounts to a no-brainer that should have been accomplished long ago.
From the beginning, the “sex abuse crisis” has actually been an interlocking set of two problems: the abuse committed by some priests, and the administrative failures of some bishops who should have known better to deal with the problem.
In general, the impact of Benedict’s “conversion” has been felt mostly on that first level — the determination to punish abusers, to adopt stringent policies governing future cases, to reach out to victims and to apologize for the suffering they’ve endured. So far, Benedict has not adopted any new accountability mechanisms for bishops. Aside from a few instances such as Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, few bishops have been asked, or instructed, to resign.
As long as the perception is that the Catholic church has fixed its priests’ problem but not its bishops’ problem, many people will see that as a job half done.
In turn, that unfinished business is what makes the revelations in Germany so potentially damaging. To be sure, one could reasonably insist that Benedict’s policies as pope are far more important than whatever happened on his watch in Munich thirty years ago. Yet if other cases of abusers who were reassigned emerge, even fair-minded people with no axe to grind may be tempted to ask: Can Benedict XVI credibly ride herd on bishops for failing to manage the crisis, if his own record as a diocesan leader isn’t any better?

Stay tuned. Rome’s inability to discipline bishops, or unwillingness to, now must be faced. On the scandal, though, Joseph Ratzinger is not Karol Wojtyla, and is in fact a great improvement in this area. Don’t forget that. But again, the job is not finished. Yet.



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Michael C

posted March 18, 2010 at 10:53 am


“Joseph Ratzinger is not Karol Wojtyla”
No he is not, but that just means that he does not have the excuse that he is old and sick. Ratzinger knew from day one of his papacy, and has still done nothing about the Bishops.
The scandal is not about sexual abuse, there is sexual abuse everywhere. The scandal is the cover up, and nothing has been done about that. The scandal is the Bishops that still fight every accusation, putting abused girls and boys through misery for, in some cases, twenty five years. The scandal is in written letters binding victims to secrecy on pain of excommunication. The scandal is Bernard law in a sinecure in Rome.
When something happens on that score, I will believe you, until then it is just welcome to the new millennium, same as the old millennium



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Elizabeth Anne

posted March 18, 2010 at 10:54 am


My real concern with the Vatican response is this: when the man in charge of graviora delicta spoke last week to the press, he was still clearly framing the abuse crisis as A) An American problem and B) a “gay” problem. I keep hearing the meme that even the American abuse crisis was really about “ephebephilia” rather than pedophilia, even after the national study came out showing that the majority of cases did, in fact, involve children under 13.
I think Benedict gets it. But the denial still runs incredibly deep, and this article is dead on – there’s still a serious Bishop problem.



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Michael C

posted March 18, 2010 at 11:13 am

hlvanburen

posted March 18, 2010 at 11:17 am


“I think Benedict gets it. But the denial still runs incredibly deep, and this article is dead on – there’s still a serious Bishop problem.”
Yes there is. And while the article is correct that many on the outside of the Vatican inner circle do not see much of the work being done behind the scenes, sooner or later there needs to be a very public and very substantive accounting that addresses not only those who made “mistakes” but also those who actively participated, with knowledge and forethought, in keeping the monsters in the priesthood.
If that process begins, perhaps those of us on the outside will come to understand that Pope Benedict is truly handling this differently. Until then…



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kenneth

posted March 18, 2010 at 11:17 am


He’s done the classic American corporate bit of making low-level heads roll while leaving management and systems and culture untouched. A better analogy might be the fire safety attitudes of the late 1800s. They got good at putting out fires, buying new equipment etc, but still allowed wooden buildings, tiny water mains and oil refineries in the heart of cities, because they didn’t want to inconvenience the ruling caste.
So it is with Benedict. It will continue as long as church members continue to happily subsidize it all with their dollars. Until the pope and bishops demonstrate real change, or have their hand forced, a portion of every dollar you give them will subsidize pedophilia as surely as if you gave it to a pimp or trafficker in Belarus or Bangkok.



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GrantL

posted March 18, 2010 at 11:39 am


Look, the big problem with the church’s response to sexual abuse by its agents, and the present pope is really still standing in this camp, is an attitude which says that dealing with the abusers is really an in-house Vatican issue. It is not an issue for the police or the courts, but one the Vatican should properly have dominion over. Justice is what the church defines it to be, not what the society at large says it is. We have law enforcement and courts to deal with criminals – which is what the abusers are – and it is not up the church to decide who gets prosecuted and who doesn’t.
I’ve covered cases for my paper of abusive priests shuffled around by bishops instead of being fired and turned over to the police. There persists this attitude that the clergy can police its own and somehow “forgiveness” constitutes justice. (Try to think of any other large institution – government, the military, a bank – that covered up or tried to hide a long trial of sexual abuse by its employees and what would happen when exposed. If the leaders of that institution said they felt THEY could best deal with it, heads would role)
It may be true that the current pope is vastly more aware of how awful this has all become than his predecessor, but until he takes meaningful action – including repudiating publicly his previous order as head of the CDF (formerly the Inquisition) that sexual abuse incidents should be kept quiet (his infamous 18 years plus 10 rule), and directly takes actions against abusive clergy and the bishops and arch bishops who have for years covered this stuff you, Benny simply doesn’t have a moral or ethical leg to stand on.
Simply put, the church no longer has any credibility left on this issue, and its hard to see how they will ever get it back.



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David

posted March 18, 2010 at 11:44 am


Here’s a very good piece by Marcello Pera yesterday.
Translated by Teresa Benedetta
Dear Editor,
The issue of pedophile or homosexual priests that has erupted recently in Germany is targeted at the Pope. It would be a grave error to think that they will not hit the mark considering the fearsome enormity of the undertaking.
And it would be an even greater error to think that the question will be concluded soon and closed, as in previous similar cases. It is not so.
A war is on. Not exactly against the person of the Pope, because on this terrain, that is impossible. Benedict XVI has been made impregnable by his image, his serenity, his clarity, firmness and doctrine. His gentle smile suffices to rout an army of adversaries.
No, this war is between secularism and Christianity. Secularists know well that once a since mud splatter reaches that white robe, then the Church would be smeared, and if the Church is smeared, then so would the Christian religion be.
That is why the secularists are accompanying their campaign with questions like “Who will continue bringing their children to church?” or “Who will continue to send their children to Catholic schools?” or “Who would bring their children to a Catholic hospital or clinic?”
A few days ago, a secularist let slip the intention. He wrote: “The fact of widespread sexual abuse of children by priests undermines the very legitimacy of the Catholic Church to guarantee education of children.”
It does not matter that this verdict has no proof, because it carefully contains the words ‘widespread sexual abuse’: How widespread? 1% of all priests are pedophile? 10%? All of them?
It doesn’t even matter that the sentence is devoid of logic: just replace ‘priests’ with ‘teachers’ or ‘politicians’ or ‘journalists’ undermining the legitimacy of the public school, of parliaments, of the press.
What matters is the insinuation in the crude argument: priests are pedophiles, therefore the Church has no moral authority, therefore Catholic education is dangerous, therefore Christianity is a deception and a danger.
This war of secularism against Christianity is pitched. One must look back to Nazism and Communism to find something similar. The means change but the end is the same: today as yesterday, what they want is to destroy religion.
In the past, Europe paid the price for this destructive fury with its freedom. It is incredible that Germany, above all – even as it continually beats its breast at the memory of the price that it inflicted on all Europe – today , when it has become a democracy, it has forgotten that, and does not seem to understand that democracy itself would be lost if Christianity were neutralized or abolished.
The destruction of religion brings with it the destruction of reason. Today, it will not bring the triumph of secular reason but a new barbarism.
On the ethical level, it is the barbarism of those who would kill a fetus because its birth would harm the ‘psychic health’ of the mother. Of those say that the embryo is nothing but a mass of cells that is useful for experimentation. Of those who would kill an old man because he no longer has a family to care for him. Of those who would hasten the end for a child because he is no longer conscious and is incurable. Of those who believe that ‘Parent A’ and ‘Parent B’ are identical to ‘mother‘ and ‘ father’. Of those who think that faith is like the coccyx, a body part that no longer participates in evolution because man no longer needs a tail and can stand on his own. And so on.
Or, to consider the political side of the war of the secularists against Christianity, barbarism will be the destruction of Europe. Because once Christianity is brought down, what’s left is: Multiculturalism, which maintains that each group has a right to its own culture. Relativism, which thinks that every culture is as good as another. Pacifism, which denies that evil exists.
This war against Christianity would not be so dangerous if Christians understood it. Instead, many of them participate in the incomprehension.
Those theologians frustrated by the intellectual supremacy of Benedict XVI. The insecure bishops who believe that to compromise with modernity is the best way to update the Christian message. The cardinals in a crisis of faith who insinuate that priestly celibacy is not a dogma and it would be best to rethink it. The sneaky Catholic intellectuals who think that there is a feminine question within the Church and an unresolved problem between Christianity and sexuality. The bishops’ conferences who mistake the order of the day, and even as they hope for n open-door policy to everyone, do not have the courage to denounce the aggressions that Christians have to undergo and the humiliation they are forced to endure because they are all placed indiscriminately, together, in the dock as accused.
Or those chancellors who originated in the East who show off a good-looking homosexual foreign minister even as they attack the Pope on every ethical issue, or those born in the West who think that the West should be secular, namely, anti-Christian. .
The era of the secularists will go on, if only because a Pope like Benedict XVI, who smiles but does not step back a a millimeter, goads them.
MARCELLO PERA
http://benedettoxviforum.freeforumzone.leonardo.it/discussione.aspx?idd=8527207&p=78



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GrantL

posted March 18, 2010 at 11:51 am


oh come on now! The issue of Catholic priests abusing children and the decades long institutionalize cover up is a “war is between secularism and Christianity” that is like Nazi German or Soviet Russia? WTF?
Sorry to say that is garbage. The church has a serious and systemic problem that isn’t going to go away with crazy talk.



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AC

posted March 18, 2010 at 11:54 am


David (not sure if you agree or disagree with the letter you posted),
That’s a classic example of redirecting blame- of sidestepping the issue. Critics say it’s reprehensible for the church to have a policy of attempting to silence victims of abuse (with threats of excommunication). I agree with those critics. They also say it’s reprehensible to refuse to report abuse (crime) to legal authorities. I agree.
When will the Pope adress those and many other issues? I don’t believe the Pope is evil, or the Catholic Church is evil. But I do believe that it is evil to threaten abuse victims to keep them silent, and to fail to report crimes against children to the police. Does anyone disagree here? The Church needs serious reform.



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sigaliris

posted March 18, 2010 at 12:02 pm


His gentle smile suffices to rout an army of adversaries.
Please hand me my barf bag.



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joe

posted March 18, 2010 at 12:29 pm


If these problems are so pandemic wouldn’t they be ever present today in our parish schools? Yet these schools are doing quite well and parents do not fear sexual abuse unless it comes from the public system. That is the point that the secular agnostic types do not wish to expose.
The most recent abuse case involved a Rabbi from Brooklyn and troubles in the Eastern Orthodoxy but the MSM manages to ignore them. I wonder why?



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Dennis

posted March 18, 2010 at 12:38 pm


I am a survivor of male sexual child abuse. What is lost in all this discussion is the children. Most victims of male sexual child abuse do not ever recover. They end up in the porn industry, insane asylums, drug and alcohol abuse, or (and the majority commit) suicide. Based upon my experience it is absolutely bizarre that the Catholic church does not assume a pro-active program to help in any and every way the victims. Enough about sick priests – what about the children who have been raped? What about them?



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Peter

posted March 18, 2010 at 12:43 pm


“The most recent abuse case involved a Rabbi from Brooklyn and troubles in the Eastern Orthodoxy but the MSM manages to ignore them.”
Because Jews and the Orthodox represent tiny minorities in the U.S., while over 22% of Americans are Catholic. Catholics institutions are among the largest recipients, among religious groups, of government grants and aid.



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Lee Podles

posted March 18, 2010 at 12:55 pm


As I was finishing Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, I began having hopes that Pope Benedict was in fact going to clean the corruption out of the Church. He has acted against sexual abuse more than any other pope in centuries.
But, he is discovering, this not enough. Bishops, even he as a bishop, enabled abusers by more or less culpable acts and omissions. Bishops, even bishops who were abusers, have not really been punished. He should suspend himself from the celebration of the liturgy for a time, and then laicize the greatest and most notorious offenders and enablers among the bishops. Cardinal Law should become Mr. Law, Cardinal Mahony, Mr. Mahony, and so on.
Having done that, Benedict should resign and pray for the victims. If he did that, he would act as a true Christian and an honorable man.



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Mac S.

posted March 18, 2010 at 1:16 pm


The tone of that letter is one of venom and paranoia. The Church is not infallible on this – it covered up the abuse of thousands of children to maintain power and control. I belong to this Church, and no, not a “liberal” parish, but it appears that some of its apologists are dabbling in some very evil rationalization of their own.
sneaky Catholic intellectuals That’s right, no thinking allowed – think what we tell you to think. I have to chuckle. He feeds into nearly every secularists’ stereotypical view of the Catholic Church.



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Sister Maureen Paul Turlish

posted March 18, 2010 at 1:23 pm


I really never had the hope that Pope Benedict would deal with the systemic and endemic problems that are at the foundation of the Church’s problems of his own volition as Lee Podles seems to have had.
Call it a woman’s intuition, whatever. But I recently voiced my beliefs thusly because he does have the power.
Sister Maureen
__________________________
WHERE DOES THE BUCK STOP?
In a press release from the Holy See on March 9, 2010, “concerning cases of the sexual abuse of minors in ecclesiastical institutions,” Director Fr. Federico Lombardi simply repeats some of the more clichaed responses and predictable excuses to the church’s everwidening problems of sexual abuse, particularly that of minor children.
http://www.oecumene.radiovaticana.org/EN1/Articolo.asp?c=362995
The institutional Roman Catholic church has reacted to the continuing sexual abuse debacle neither rapidly nor decisively, contrary to what Lombardi states. The Vatican has attempted to distance itself from what has happened in country after country, first categorizing it as an “American problem,” then as a “homosexual problem.”
What was done by church leadership in the United States, for example, it was forced to do by the pressure of public opinion after records, files and correspondence were forced into the public venue in 2002 by Judge Constance M. Sweeney, a very brave, grounded and principled Catholic woman in Boston, Massachusetts.
The church’s response continues to be reactive rather than pro-active while minimizing the systemic and endemic abuse of power and authority which has enabled and exacerbated it on the one hand while covering it up whenever and wherever possible on the other.
The “wide-ranging context” is that in countries from the United States, Canada, Australia and Ireland to Austria, the Netherlands and Germany church authorities have repeatedly and consistently disregarded its own moral and Canon laws as well as the existing laws of the countries’ in which these horrific crimes against humanity occurred.
The church has lost its way.
Lombardi does not mention nor does he admit to the well documented widespread cover-up of the sexual abuse of children by bishops and other church officials in many countries like the United States, that makes the church’s sexual abuse problems particularly egregious. If church authorities had done the morally right thing initially, one wonders how many children would have escaped being sexually abused by a particular priest?
When are people of good will going to say, enough!
When are state legislators going to change the laws so that justice can be pursued for the thousands upon thousands of victims of childhood sexual abuse who have been unable to access let alone obtain justice?
In most states and probably in most countries existing criminal as well as civil laws give more protection to sexual predators and their enablers then they do to victims of childhood sexual abuse – by anyone. The problems with statutes of limitation which have expired, are much the same as they have been is in so many juristictions in the United States. It is much the same in GermaThis is deplorable and should not be.
The removal of all statutes of limitation in regard to the sexual abuse of children is the single, most effective way to hold predators and enabling institutions accountable before the law. More than that, window legislation which allows a set timeframe for previously time barred cases of sexual abuse, by anyone, It is possible to change the laws in order to give some semblence of justice to those ravaged at so tender an age. What is needed is the will to hold all sexual predators of children accountable along along with any enabling individuals or institutions.
The state of Delaware in the United States is one of a very few states in the U.S. which has removed all criminal and civil statutes of limitation in regard to the sexual abuse of children – by anyone. It also legislated a two year civil window for previously time barred cases, again, by anyone. That window closed in July of 2009.
In a civil suit, unlike a criminal suit, the burden of proof that any sexual abuse took place is on the plaintiff. The burden is not on the accused individual or institution to prove innocence, at least not in the United States.
Every victim of childhood sexual abuse should have a right to the pursuit of justice at the very least!
If Delaware can do it other states and other countries should be able to do it and hold sexual predators and any enabling institutions responsible, especially those institutions which chose to ignore their own internal laws.
I was privileged to testify before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees in support of the 2007 Child Victims Law in Delaware.
No rules and no laws of any religious organization or denomination should be allowed to trump the laws of a civilized society where the protection of children is concerned.
Not only should the institutional Roman Catholic Church be held to the highest standard as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, it should be leading the parade as a shining example of what can and should be done to protect children from sexual exploitation, from what really is just another example of trafficking in individuals for purposes of sexual exploitation, nothing less.
Bt any objective standard this church has for decades grossly violated the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Is it time, perhaps, to formalize those violations as the crimes against humanity they truly are?
Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
Victims’ Advocate
New Castle, Delaware, USA
maureenpaulturlish@yahoo.com



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Gloria Sullivan

posted March 18, 2010 at 1:24 pm


All the other religions you speak of, that seem to be doing these same things, are not the same at all. When you know what Catholocism is all about, you know that the The Roman Catholic Church claims their clergy REPRESENT JESUS CHRIST here on earth. Why would anyone go to confession to a mere man, if they can go directly to Almighty God? That is called “generational brainwashing “by the RCC since it’s inception. They NEED CONTROL OVER YOU AND HAVE ACCOMPLISHED THAT.
No other Christian church is asked to do the things the RCC says you MUST doaccording to their rules, not biblical as they distort the WORD);like attend mass once a week and confession once a month or go to Hell, etc,etc the list goes on. Can’t attend a church of a different denomination even if it’s christian..Oh they are afraid you will find out they are HUGE LIARS,WHICH THEY ARE, that’s why they must control you.
People were not educated in the early days of the church and were vunerable (like our children) to listen to a host of anti biblical junk. St Paul and St. Peter both gave dyer warings to the new believers, to never listen to a gospel that wasn’t”The Gospel of Jesus” That would be “Anathema” That happened,thus,the RCC.
I AM, ALONG WITH MY FAMILY, AN EX-CATHOLIC AND PROUD TO BE OUT(2001) It’s been a long ride and tough to endure but you must get out or be held as responsible as those who have comitted these CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY.
I was a convert at age 12 and am now 80 yrs young.



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David

posted March 18, 2010 at 1:41 pm


The author of the piece, Marcello Pera, is not a Christian, he’s actually an atheist. He is an Italian philosopher and former President of the Italian Senate.



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AC

posted March 18, 2010 at 2:01 pm


David,
So what? He’s still brushing aside and ignoring some seriously bad stuff.



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Eileen Wigginton

posted March 18, 2010 at 2:49 pm


If you think the pope has changed then please, please don’t forget Papa Razzi is still harboring Cardinal Law who should be in prison but instead is swishing aroung in all his red glory at the Vatican. The church won’t admit that child rape has been on the books as a felony since 1937 and the bishops thought it was ok until they started getting hit in the collection basket. I am utterly dismayed that there is anyone left in the pews. I was a cradle Catholic with 13 years in the schools and was properly brainwashed. Fifteen years ago, I woke up.



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Roland de Chanson

posted March 18, 2010 at 3:03 pm


If the resignation of Bernard Law is being touted as one of the internal corrective measures of the Church, then there is far more rot than I would have thought.
Ratzinger as pope has the power to hire and fire bishops. But he thinks that heavy-handed tactics will damage relations with the Orthodox, Traditional Anglicans, maybe even a few vacillating Lutherans he was out a-courting last Sunday at the Roman exarchate of Lake Wobegon. This mollycoddling of bishops in name of “collegiality” is unconscionable.
I voted for Ratzinger but I’m switching parties next time he runs.



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Michael C

posted March 18, 2010 at 3:06 pm


Sr Turlish.
When the Pope starts to listen to you and Sipe and Doyle, then there will be hope for the Church, until then, not much I am afraid.
Don’t be expecting the American Bishops to be doing anything, they are to busy giving lip service to the idea of health reform, whilst finding excuses to do nothing.



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David

posted March 18, 2010 at 3:23 pm


As regards Cardinal Law, it was Pope John Paul II who brought him to Rome. As unpopular as it is I think Pope Benedict’s only motivation in keeping him there is that he doesn’t want to throw the Cardinal to the wolves. He has certainly not been “promoted” as some journalists rather stupidly say. I do think it is a great shame that Law hasn’t taken the initiative himself and returned.



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BobSF

posted March 18, 2010 at 3:30 pm


The author of the piece, Marcello Pera, is not a Christian, he’s actually an atheist. He is an Italian philosopher and former President of the Italian Senate.
He’s also a co-author with, and personal friend of, the Pope. The Culture War is alive and well in Italy, though it’s a quite different from the one here. In Italy, everything is more complicated, more intellectual in tone, and more extreme. The translation doesn’t do the letter justice.
I was curious about the odd line about the good-looking homosexual foreign minister, so I found the original.
http://archiviostorico.corriere.it/2010/marzo/17/aggressione_Papa_alla_democrazia_co_9_100317017.shtml
The English doesn’t convey the disdain and the venom of the original Italian:
Oppure quei cancellieri venuti dall’ Est che esibiscono un bel ministro degli esteri omosessuale mentre attaccano il Papa su ogni argomento etico



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Roland de Chanson

posted March 18, 2010 at 4:37 pm


David,
I agree Law has not received a promotion, as such. But a sinecure in a papal basilica, a residence in a Renaissance palace, and servants to cater to his cardinalitial caprice, is a hell of a lateral transfer.
As for the power he relinquished as archbishop of Boston, he is compensated by sitting on something like seven Vatican commissariats, including the one that selects candidates for vacant bishoprics.
I don’t suggest throwing him to the wolves. But there is an opening as Prefect of Papal Latrines which might give him time for reflection.



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Carlo

posted March 18, 2010 at 5:00 pm


The statement that “the Church has a problem that needs to be fixed” and the statement that “a lot of people does not give a fig about abuse victims but sees this as an opening to attack the Pope” are obviously not in contradiction.
As for me (responding to Gloria Sullivan) I have never doubted that priests are capable of terrible sins (just like myself, by the way). But I never understood people (like Gloria) who think that this disproves that they are really chosen by God to “represent” Him on earth. has Gloria ever read the old testament?



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linda

posted March 18, 2010 at 5:14 pm


Does anyone have a clue about how everybody handled sex abuse – heck – any abuse in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s (etc)?
Psychological counseling and removing from the “offending” relationship was as far as anything ever went – if it was taken seriously at all!
Almost universally, it was hush-hush, or the abused was accused of ‘telling tales’ regardless of who the offender was – Dad, Uncle, Boy Scout Leader, Teacher, Brother, Minister, Rabbi, Priest…
The Church, in most cases, took it seriously and at least did what was cutting edge at the time – moved the SOB’s – and have tried to help the victims. Mistakes – yes… but there was a time when it was expected – not just accepted – to beat your kids! Today, it’s abuse!
Yet, still the attacks from 50 and 60 years ago continue on the church. And molestations that are going on today are ignored from “prefered” groups… Including Orthodox Rabbi’s in NYC…
Doesn’t seem quite right, does it??
I’d propose a few things…
1) There’s a whole lot of folks who really want to be Catholic – but don’t know it (They celebrate all our holy days!)
2) There’s a whole lot more who are afraid that the Catholic Church really is the ONE true church — and attacking seems to be a good defense (they don’t have to address their fears)
3) The Catholic Church is held to a much higher standard… What about Boys Clubs, Rabbi’s, Baptists… Democrats… Much higher % of offenders there…
4) See #2; We should be held to a higher standard. We’ve got the whole of Christian Truth; It’s time we tried to live up to it.



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Your Name

posted March 18, 2010 at 5:15 pm


Unless and until Ratzinger does away with ‘Crimens Solicitationis’ (the Vatican’s written policy of NOT reportinng these crimes), you can ‘defend’ him all you want and it will be for naught.



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Lasorda

posted March 18, 2010 at 6:03 pm


Rod:
FYI,Andrew Sullivan is now calling you one of B16’s “defenders.” He says you’re in denial about the abuse scandal.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 18, 2010 at 6:16 pm


“The most recent abuse case involved a Rabbi from Brooklyn and troubles in the Eastern Orthodoxy but the MSM manages to ignore them. I wonder why?”
Rod,
We’re all very aware and disgusted by Rome’s problems in this area. Perhaps you’ll begin to employ the the same passionate pursuit of fully airing the problems in the Orthodox Church before moving on the the far greater magnitude in the public schools, or the insurance industry reports that place the magnitude at 2-3x greater in the protestant churches.
This rather unique focus on Rome is starting to look indistinguishable from the NY Times’ exclusive attention. Is this a war against Rome or a campaign to protect children? If not the former, but the latter, the silence is deafening.



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AC

posted March 18, 2010 at 6:18 pm


linda-
You say “The Catholic Church is held to a much higher standard… What about Boys Clubs, Rabbi’s, Baptists… Democrats… Much higher % of offenders there… ”
That is extremely false. Even the Catholic League, one of the most conservative and strongest defenders of the Pope, admits that around 4% of priests are guilty of abuse. Four percent!
Are four percent of ANY other religion’s clergy, or organization guilty of child molestation and rape?



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Michael C

posted March 18, 2010 at 6:29 pm


As I said earlier, the scandal is not the abuse, which is everywhere, but the denial, and the transfer of priests from one place to another to abuse again.
Father H in Germany was still working as a priest and administering to his flock, right up until last week, despite two convictions. Which only goes to prove that the wider church is still in denial about the whole situation.



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BobSF

posted March 18, 2010 at 6:48 pm


insurance industry reports that place the magnitude at 2-3x greater in the protestant churches
I had nuns in grade school who would have rapped your knuckles for making an argument like that.



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Jon

posted March 18, 2010 at 8:13 pm


I am a former Catholic who bears the Church no particular animus (I just think it’s wrong on some thing), but I am deeply dismayed by these scandals. When the American scandal broke I refused to believe it was anything but some rare instances of abuse being played up by the Church’s enemies both (secular) Left and (fundamentalist) Right, and fueled by people looking for easy lawsuit money.
So now I have to ask, What the he?? is wrong in Rome? Are they going to repeat the whole corrupt Renaissance Church debacle I can almost see how gold and palaces and gorgeous mistresses and power over princes would be enough to lead men of God astray. But pederasty? That’s something to sell the Keys of the Kingdom for?



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hlvanburen

posted March 18, 2010 at 8:36 pm


The problem with the analogy regarding “the protestant churches” is that there is no organizational structure that can be identified as “The Protestant Church”. By a conservative count there are over 30,000 Protestant denominations worldwide, each with their own organizational structure, their own bureaucracy, and their own leadership figures.
If we accept that there are 4% of the Catholic priests involved in some form of sexual abuse (a number that may be legitimate or not, depending on how the cases are counted), then we would have to point to a Protestant denomination that has a similar percentage of abusive clerics in order to have an apples-to-apples comparison.
Further, many Protestant denominations do not have a central structure that controls the training, ordination, and assignment of their clergy. Southern Baptists, one of the largest Protestant denominations, does not have a central authority similar to the Catholic Church. For the Southern Baptists, each congregation is rather autonomous in its governance, calling and dismissing their ministers as they choose. Individual congregations may also ordain their own ministers apart from those recommended by the SBC placement services. But at no time does the SBC central office assign a minister to a congregation. They offer guidance, legal and human resources advice, and education for lay leaders. But they have no power in governance of the local congregation.
Thus, when a Southern Baptist minister becomes identified as a sexual abuser, there is no national story to report. The local church, not the central denominational office, is in control of that minister’s future. It is their responsibility to report his actions to local authorities, to dismiss him from his position, and to work with the victims of abuse in the congregation. There are no bishops, archbishops, or cardinals up the organizational chain to intervene on behalf of the offending minister.
A friend was on the board of deacons of a Southern Baptist church when an allegation of abuse was made against their minister. They immediately contacted the local Department of Human Services and reported the allegation, suspended the minister with pay until the investigation was completed, and opened their records completely to local authorities. In this case the allegations were founded, the minister eventually admitted to the abuse (and to two other cases that had not been known), and he was dismissed from his position. The church cooperated with the prosecution and did their best to support the victims. The incident was news locally, but of no interest to the larger papers in the state, let alone national news media.
In the case of the Catholic Church there is evidence of a coordinated coverup that extends into the national and worldwide leadership of a multi-national church. Knowledge of abusive behavior has been shown to reach many levels of the church, including the leadership in the Vatican. With continued revelations of abuse not only in the United States but now in three other continents, this is indeed a major news story. It’s not the local First Baptist minister gone bad. It’s rot throughout the organizational structure.
Recent events have also driven the name of the Catholic Church into the headlines. For example, the very public role that the USCCB is taking in the healthcare reform debate has placed the church’s name in the news in what many here have seen as a very positive role. I hate to say it, but when you are taking a public stance and putting your name before the people, sometimes some inconvenient dirt comes out.
Finally, elements of the cover-up continue in many cases. We see the Catholic Church still dragging its heels in many cases, refusing to cooperate completely with local authorities, or claiming that it is not a secular legal matter but, rather, an internal matter. We see various branches of the Church declaring bankruptcy to protect assets from legal judgments.
I’m sorry, but your attempted parallel fails. If you can show me an Protestant denomination (not all of Protestantism) that has the same percentage of abusive clergy, confirmed cases of abuse, and open court cases as the Catholic Church, I might accept your argument. Otherwise, it is simply a dodge to avoid accountability.
In my friend’s case the congregation suffered terribly as the details of the abuse came out. But they did the right thing by cooperating with legal authorities and not making lame defenses for their minister. They also adopted a clear policy statement regarding how future cases would be handled. I can assure you, having seen their document, that there is absolutely NO question of trying to treat allegations of abuse as “internal matters.”



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Roland de Chanson

posted March 18, 2010 at 8:47 pm


Linda,
Well said. Your points are well taken. Kudos.



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Roland de Chanson

posted March 18, 2010 at 8:57 pm


Gerard Nadal,
Although you are right to point out that these problems are not unique to the Roman Catholic Church, deflecting attention at others is off the mark.
The Orthodox and the Protestants are a sideshow compared to Rome. I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense, but neither schismatic group has the cachet of the Roman Catholic Church. How many patriarchal coronations are covered live by the major networks? Who reports on what the Phanar says or the Muscovite Patriarchate? Is Metropolitan Jonah’s autocephaly even acknowledged by anyone other than Moscow? The fragmented and balkanized structure of Orthodoxy and Protestantism does not lend itself to a frontal attack. It doesn’t sell newspapers. Nor should it.
Rome (the first one) is the big kid on the block and everyone wants at him. We can’t bellyache about it. There is only one True Faith and it is centered in Rome. Who cares about the small fry?
The abuse scandals impact the human institution of the Church, not the Divine Institution. Ratzinger may be a vacillator but he is not a molestor, nor is he a denier as was his Divinely chosen first predecessor. The Church can and should take the heat. As Lee Podles indicated, Mr. Law and Mr. Mahoney would be a good start.
As Linda said, we ought to be held to a higher standard. We are the only ones who count in the ultimate scheme of things.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted March 18, 2010 at 10:06 pm


Marcello Perra is way off base.
Hitler came to power with substantial Christian support, not over the prostrate body of the church. Likewise, substantial portions of the churches, Roman and Protestant, resisted Hitler in various ways.
IF this campaign becomes a smear on the Pope, and IF that destroys the institution he heads, it will not destroy the Christian faith. It will destroy one institution that has offered itself as the best practice of the Chrisitian faith. There will still be at five branches of Orthodoxy, at least two Coptic churches, and a plethora of Protestants, plus I’m sure I’ve left out a few others.
On the other hand, I expect that millions of faithful Catholics, even if the entire Vatican collapsed under the weight of this scandal, would reconstitute themselves into something very similar, or maybe join the Old Catholics of Holland, because there is much they find reassuring about their church.



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Liam

posted March 18, 2010 at 10:27 pm


The greater the degree of authority claimed, the greater the level of responsibility to which the claimant will be held. Prelates (bishops, cardinals, popes) claim an absolute level of authority. When they try to disclaim or hedge their responsibility, they create massive dissonance in so doing. They can either live up to their responsibility, or be more circumspect in their claims of authority.



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Cecelia

posted March 18, 2010 at 10:44 pm


I am not so sure this is about disciplining the bishops – although clearly that needs doing. The bigger problem is the inability of the bishops to be able to see this scandal as the laity see it, to be able to understand the damage they have done and continue to do. That this is going on in Germany now – a cover up – reassign the pedophile thing – after all that has happened in the US and Ireland – defies logic.
What will it take for these men to understand that their cover up/reassign thing is destroying the credibility of the Church and driving scores of people away from the Church? How dense can you be? Is the bubble they live in really that impenetrable and does it really remove them from normal human reactions? How hard is it to figure out that pedophiles do not get cured and that the only stance to take in the face of such repulsive acts is expulsion from the priesthood and handing over to the police?
Siarlys – this won’t destroy the Church. I don’t stay in the Church because it is reassuring – it really is not reassuring. I stay in the Church because I believe it to be true. I think many Catholics can make a distinction between the human organization and the divine organization.
There certainly is a lot of denial among both priests and laity about this which is understandable – it is a gruesome situation. But the only way it will stop is truly facing up to the reality of this. As for secular attacks – they can only succeed in such attacks if the Church fails to get serious about this.
As for Law – he is a astonishment to me. He clearly does not understand that any time he pokes his face out in public the only reaction people have is disgust. He is a constant reminder of how wrong the hierarchy was and what harm they did. The only time we should see this man in public is when he comes out to show us his contrition and atonement. He should resign and retire to a Carthusian monastery.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 18, 2010 at 10:47 pm


Roland,
Your points are well-made and well-taken, per usual. However, your comments only serve to reinforce my question to Rod.
What is this outrage all about? Is it all about the cache of the Church and everyone wanting a piece of the big boy, as you suggest? Because if that’s all this is about, then Rome’s detractors are not at all concerned with the plight of children and are cynically exploiting the tragedy of the children in the Roman Church to get at it the only way they can-all other arguments having been defeated on the merits.
If on the other hand people are genuinely concerned about the plight of children, then it’s a piss-poor argument to say that other churches and civic institutions, where the problems are astoundingly more prevalent than in Rome, ought not be held to an equal standard of decency simply because Rome talks a tougher game. If it’s truly about protecting children, then the baseline level of outrage should be at least as high as that directed at Rome.
Sadly, I think that most people’s motives are centered in your argument based on cache.
It has nothing to do with protecting ALL children.



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Carlo

posted March 18, 2010 at 10:52 pm


Liam:
actually Catholic bishops claim absolute authority only on narrow matters of faith and morals. They certainly do not claim any infallibility on matters of Church governance.
I am as annoyed as anybody else at clericalism and clerical corruption. What I do not accept is when people claim that ethical lapses on the part of the clergy somehow cast doubt on the divine constitution of the Church. Not only that is illogical, it is hypocritical because we all share in the same situation of sinfulness. Christ promised many things, but not that the Church would not be full of sinners.



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Rod Dreher

posted March 19, 2010 at 12:43 am


Oh good grief, only among Catholic hyperpartisans of opposing sides like Andrew Sullivan and Prof. Nadal would I get slammed from both sides. Am I a defender of Benedict or an antagonist? I can’t be both, can I?
My point, contra Andrew, is that things really have changed under Benedict, compared to under John Paul. Cdl. Ratzinger had a real change of heart/vision, and as John Allen (no church conservative) has observed, the Vatican has been moving a lot faster in the right direction on sex abuse matters. But I don’t think it is moving with remotely the kind of swiftness or severity as it ought to against bishops. It is relatively easy to take out maleficent clerics. It is far more difficult, in terms of ecclesial politics, to move against bishops who have lost their moral credibility because of their disgusting cover-ups of sexual molestation. I know that folks like Andrew will use any stick they can get their hands on to wallop Pope Benedict, but the fact that Andrew Sullivan is pissed off about this situation does not therefore mean that there’s nothing to be pissed off about. I was speaking to a faithful Catholic conservative earlier today, who said that it’s a good thing that Rome finally understands that you shouldn’t mollycoddle molester priests, but that there’s so much more to be done, and that it shouldn’t be seen as a special achievement to act with the moral common sense. If a bishop forced a child to sign a document saying he would never tell that Father forced him to suck his penis, then that bishop is in serious trouble. Ordinary people get this — why doesn’t the pope?
Prof. Nadal, the idea that I shouldn’t comment on what is front page news in the US and in Europe because I haven’t made a point of investigating child molestation in the US public schools, or digging to see if it’s happening in the Orthodox Church, or else stand guilty of anti-Catholic bias, really is beneath you. Aside from the fact that it’s a bizarre argument to make, the fact is that the survival of Western civilization depends on the Roman church cleansing itself from this rot, and achieving meaningful reform. I don’t agree with Roland’s tendentious claims about Roman primacy, but only because I find his triumphalist tone obnoxious and off-putting. I must agree that in the long run, Rome is what matters for Christians in the West, and the Roman bureaucracy’s inability to deal with the sick corruption in its own ranks is not simply a problem for Roman Catholics. If the Orthodox Church in America’s leadership goes down in a corruption scandal (as happened just over a year ago), nobody much notices outside of Orthodox circles. Rome has a much larger footprint.
Besides, I don’t care if he’s the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Pope, or whoever, if you’ve got a problem in which children were raped by priests of Jesus Christ, and you’re soft-pedaling accountability for those vile crimes, you have to answer for them just like anybody else given authority. With great power comes great responsibility.



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hlvanburen

posted March 19, 2010 at 1:39 am


“If it’s truly about protecting children, then the baseline level of outrage should be at least as high as that directed at Rome.”
Mr. Nadal, you have made a number of posts in the past strongly supporting the pro-life position. You have taken on abortion, cloning, in vitro fertilization, and many other procedures claiming that they contribute to what you have decried as a diminishing of the value of human life. All the while you have tied your arguments to the doctrine and teachings of the Catholic Church.
Comes now yet more evidence that while your Church was proclaiming in a very public these doctrines, not only were a number of clerics molesting, raping, and threatening young children in their care, but also a greater number of higher-ups in the church were actively engaged in a cover-up of what is clearly a global scale. For you, a person who has so stalwartly defended the “culture of life” regarding children in the beginning of their lives to now criticize those who bring legitimate complaints against the Holy Catholic Church for its actions and inactions is the height of hypocrisy.
Until the Catholic Church and its members, and I include you in this, Mr. Nadal, decide that they need to be as angry at their abusive priests and complicit leaders as they are at people like me who point to this despicable and hypocritical behavior, then there will be a large number of people who have to wonder if the Bishop who calls for the denial of the Eucharist to pro-abortion legislators is, after the Mass, taking an altar boy or choir girl and performing sex acts on them.
That is the burden the Church has put upon itself with its behavior, and the burden that you do nothing at all to help remove with your self-righteous attacks.
The Catholic Church likes to point to a passage of Scripture which it claims proves that it alone is the One True Church.
Matthew 16:13-18
13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
14 And they said, Some [say that thou art] John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
I daresay that there is another passage of Scripture that may well be coming to fruition in our time.
Revelation 2:1-7
1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
Mr. Nadal, if the Bible is accurate and true, then there are two facts the Catholic Church needs to be aware of. First, the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. Second, God never promised he would never remove the church from its position of privilege. That is exactly what we may see happening before us.



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hlvanburen

posted March 19, 2010 at 1:46 am


“Besides, I don’t care if he’s the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Pope, or whoever, if you’ve got a problem in which children were raped by priests of Jesus Christ, and you’re soft-pedaling accountability for those vile crimes, you have to answer for them just like anybody else given authority.”
There is an old saying that my father passed on to me in my youth. I believe it applies here.
There is no sympathy given for self-inflicted injuries.
Mr. Nadal, Mr. Dreher makes a very strong point above. If you cared as much about ALL children as you claim you do, then you would stop whining about so called “Catholic persecution” and start haranguing your Priest, Bishop, Archbishop, Cardinal, and even the Pope to take a much stronger stand on the issue of both those who abused children and those who are complicit in enabling such by their inaction.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 19, 2010 at 1:49 am


Rod, as one who worked with teem prostitutes in Times Square for seven years in the 1980’s (and you know all about that), I think it an insulting bit of dishonesty on your part to accuse me of Catholic hyperpartisanship when you damned well know the love I have for young people, and how not one of the thousands I encountered in my years in Times Square was ever the victim of clerical pedophilia.
Talk about an argument being beneath the one making it. I’ve dealt with thousands of children savaged by family, mother’s boyfriends, neighbors, and ‘respectful’ business men. These children have no voice, no champion.
Yes Rod, you’ve done an admirable job being a follower of the MSM leading. To hear and read it, the vast majority of pedophilia is committed by Catholic Clergy and a handful of female teachers with blonde hair and big boobs. But if you were genuinely concerned about Western Civilization, you would advance the story beyond the one population of predators with the fewest victims among them. You WOULD go after the public schools, the other churches, because non-Catholics put THEIR trust in these people and have it betrayed on a far larger scale.
Again, what of those children?
As for the Roman Church cleansing itself, that’s pretty far along. Much further than in any other quarter. And when she is bright and shiny-new, she’ll have no more ability to influence the world in this regard than she did before; in part because of this scandal, in part because non-Catholics and secular-progressives never gave a crap about what we said anyway.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 19, 2010 at 2:28 am


Hlvanburen,
You presume too much when you presume that I am not outraged at this scandal. I am. You also presume too much in presuming that I have not spoken to and corresponded with Priests and Bishops about this issue. I have, and rather extensively. But I can walk and chew gum at the same time, and think it a tactical blunder on the part of those who genuinely care about all children not to borrow the momentum stemming from the Church scandal and apply it to other quarters where the problem is far more systemic.
The news coming from Ireland and other nations is not at all surprising to me, though it is appalling. Did anyone REALLY think that this was somehow limited to the USA, when Europe has been far more sexually licentious than this nation? I suspect that there is much more yet to come to light.
Perhaps it’s because of my years in Times Square that I have an appreciation for just how systemic this cancer truly is.
In holding out Rome as the last best hope, Rod is looking at metastatic cancer and focusing on only one of the tumors, to the exclusion of 90% of the others. Perhaps for many, this is too overwhelming a reality and they console themselves with the thought that restricting their focus is somehow helpful.
As for my appeal to the truth taught by the Magisterium, when the Church was expunging its abuses in the 1500’s, the Council of Trent presented us with the principle of Ex Opere Operato, that the validity and grace of the Sacraments comes to us from God Himself and is independent of the sanctity of the Priest. While I would have my Priests be sanctified, I need not peg the validity of Magisterial teaching to their sanctity. Those words, grounded in God’s revelation are internally coherent and valid.
As for your scripture, yes you are accurate. When the Spanish Bishops gave the King a pass this month when he signed the liberalization of abortion laws, we witnessed the fall of one of Europe’s last redoubts and the passing of the torch to the Southern Hemisphere, specifically South America and Africa. The story of the Catholic Church at the end of this century will be that of Africa and South America’s faith, and the small European and American remnant struggling amidst persecution from their muslim majorities.
The role of the clergy in the sex scandals will be a bit part when that story is written. Our demise s the result of our faithlessness and rebellion in all matters sexual, from pre-marital and extramarital sex, contraception among married couples, abortion, addiction to pornography, unbridled narcissism and consumerism. It is from this toxic soup that vocations arise. The miracle is that there are as many holy Priests as there are.



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Charles Cosimano

posted March 19, 2010 at 4:01 am


The notion that Western Civilization needs the Catholic Church in order to survive is utter tommyrot. The Catholic Church has had no significant impact on Western Civilization since the guns of the British Navy kept the Papacy from silencing Sir Isaac Newton. When Stalin asked, “How many divisions does the Pope have?” he was speaking a great truth, and now we know that it was not the absurd threat of John Paul the Creepy to go to Poland if the Soviets invaded, as if they would have had any problem just grabbing him and putting on a plane back to Rome, but rather the statement by Ronald Reagan that it would mean war. The Pope had no divisions. Reagan had nuclear weapons and in 1981 there were still a lot of people living who remembered 1939.
The Catholic Church can clean up its act as best it can, but it will have all of the cultural power that has had for 400 years–none whatsoever.



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public_defender

posted March 19, 2010 at 5:52 am


Dreher has a point. Benedict is more concerned (less unconcerned?) about the victims than JPII. Benedict seems to see that the problem may be more than PR and more than just an unfair attack on the church.
But Benedict has a long way to go. And the denial is still deep in the US. Take a look at the Catholic League’s website.
They are still blaming gays and the press for somehow unfairly attacking the church. We might be able to dismiss them as a bunch of crackpots, but the “about” page includes strong messages of support from five American archbishops (Egan, Mahony, Chaput, O’Brien, and O’Malley).
If Benedict wants us to believe he is taking this seriously, he has to put a stop to the excuse factory. “Others rape kids too” is not a message becoming an organization that wants to be not just respectable, but holy. Same with scapegoating gay people. The quibbling over the word “pedophile” may have linguistic merit, but it shows a denial of real responsibility. It’s like an Arab arguing, “I can’t be an anti-semitic because Arabs are Semitic people, too.” People like Donohue, Egan, Mahony, Chaput, O’Brien, and O’Malley are speaking as if they represent the Catholic Church. Benedict has the power to tell them to stop, but he hasn’t used it.
I’ve represented people convicted of with horrible things. Sometimes, you can argue mitigation. Sometimes, you can argue that it wasn’t as bad as the other side says. But if you want credit for acceptance of responsibility, you can’t minimize or make lame excuses. And you have to be willing to accept real consequences. So far, I haven’t seen evidence that Benedict has done that or will do that. Hopefully, he will prove me wrong.



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Michael C

posted March 19, 2010 at 5:59 am


Gerard Nadel
Hans Kung does not agree with you.
“Protection of their priests and the reputation of the church was evidently more important to the bishops than protection of minors. Thus, there is an important difference between the individual cases of abuse surfacing in schools outside the Catholic church and the systematic and correspondingly more frequent cases of abuse within the Catholic church, where, now as before, an uptight, rigoristic sexual morality prevails, that finds its culmination in the law of celibacy.”
http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/ratzingers-responsibility



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Jon

posted March 19, 2010 at 6:45 am


Re: The Catholic Church has had no significant impact on Western Civilization since the guns of the British Navy kept the Papacy from silencing Sir Isaac Newton.
Huh? I can think of no such incient in history. Indeed, the Catholic English king James II had no animus toward Sir Isaac and made no moves against him, nor was Newton a casus belli i9n the wars between England and Catholic France.
Gerard: most of us expect more of Catholic clergymen than we do of public school teachers. And the excuse “Everybody else is doing it” never me out of trouble when I was growing up and misbehaved. It’s outrageous to use it now and in such a serious matter.



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Rod Dreher

posted March 19, 2010 at 7:55 am


Gerard, if you see a man kicking his child on the playground, I doubt very much you’ll say, “Well, unless I can stop everyone who beats his kid, even those who do so behind closed doors, I have no right to raise my hand, or even my voice, against this fellow.”



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Rod Dreher

posted March 19, 2010 at 8:32 am


One more thing, Gerard: by your logic, Wall Street is held in such low esteem today not because of the crimes and sins of the bankers, but because people who hate capitalism have highlighted their lawbreaking, and the anti-capitalist media have ballyhooed this news.



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hlvanburen

posted March 19, 2010 at 9:39 am


“Did anyone REALLY think that this was somehow limited to the USA, when Europe has been far more sexually licentious than this nation?”
Nicholas Cafardi, an original member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Youth (otherwise known as the National Review Board) and its second chairman till June 2005, makes exactly that claim in his book “Before Dallas: The U.S. Bishops’ Response to Clergy Sexual Abuse of Children” when he states:
“When this first started to break in the United States in the mid-to-late ’80s and our bishops went to Rome for help in dealing with it, they were basically told, “This is an American problem.”
It would seem that attitude prevailed until the late 1980s when some allegations began coming in from Australia and Argentina.
So, did anyone seriously believe this was an American problem? According to Mr. Cafardi, the answer is yes.



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Michael C

posted March 19, 2010 at 10:15 am


This is from the Australian Common’s Committee on sex abuse by clergy from 1998.
“Those of us who heard the account of a man who as a boy was a particular favourite of some Christian Brothers at Tardun [Western Australia] who competed as to who could rape him 100 times first, his account of being in terrible pain, bleeding and bewildered, trying to beat his own eyes so they would cease to be blue as the Brothers liked his blue eyes, or being forced to masturbate animals, or being held upside down over a well and threatened in case he ever told, will never forget it.”
If that does not chill your soul, I don’t know what will.
So when someone accuses me of not really being concerned about the children, I want them to remember that.



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GrantL

posted March 19, 2010 at 10:22 am


Gerard Nadal
I am somewhat puzzled by your constant refrain of “what about the children?” as if calling for a whole sale clean up of wretched criminal priests and wanting their boss to finally accept fully the responsibility that he and others have played in covering up what was done has nothing to do with the children.
Justice will only be done when those who have preyed upon children have held to full account and the institutional coverup that allows the crimes to continue is completely done away with. This is ALL about the children. There is no other reason for getting upset. These men abused children. Their superiors covered it up. Believers try to make light of it saying oh its not that bad, or this is a mean attack on the pope or what about the other guys down the street doing bad things.
And honestly, to say that the REAL problem is extra marital or pre marital sex and contraception is, I am sorry to say, to miss the point entirely. There is no small amount of irony here that someone shouting “what about the children” then turns around and says well yes the sex scandals are bad, but a married couple using condoms is just worse.
This is NOT a question of faith, or some weird belief that a bunch of old men selected another old man to run a multi-national faith corporation is really the voice of god, or that someone, somewhere else is doing something worse than what these priests have done to children. It is a question of justice for those who are victims and hopeful, to prevent others from being victimized.



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Liam

posted March 19, 2010 at 10:36 am


Carlo
“actually Catholic bishops claim absolute authority only on narrow matters of faith and morals. They certainly do not claim any infallibility on matters of Church governance.”
In theory, yes, but in practice, no. That is, in practice, Rome has gradually reorganized its governance structures (and the way it works them) to make bishops virtually immune from discipline or accountability. The Church is still governed as if Henry IV were lurking everywhere to invest each bishop (the Investiture Controversy does properly linger in China and Vietnam, I hasten to caution). It was not always so, and it need not be so. But for now, it is so, and Rome is reaping what it sowed in that regard, and I do not pity it in that regard.



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joe

posted March 19, 2010 at 11:19 am


Gerald Nadal
You are correct in your contentions, notwithstanding the virulent anti-Catholic attitudes expressed by the bigoted comments directed toward your opinions. How eloquently they disguise their 19 Century “No Nothing” attitudes behind their alleged excuse of “Protection of the Children”. When the vast majority of current Catholics fail to see abuse in their own parishes, attitudes as expressed against you only serve to reinforce suspicions that the self hating Catholics or Ian Paisley types have been breed to continue the anti-clerical struggle. Their comments reek of duplicity and self righteousness.



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Roland de Chanson

posted March 19, 2010 at 11:37 am


Gerard Nadal,
Yes that is indeed a toxic soup. But no, the scandal will not be a bit part: was peddling indulgences a bit part? Let us get the toxicity out of the Church first; there is enough ordure in the Roman Augean stables that even a Herculean purge would be but a start.



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Roland de Chanson

posted March 19, 2010 at 11:49 am


Rod: I don’t agree with Roland’s tendentious claims about Roman primacy, but only because I find his triumphalist tone obnoxious and off-putting. I must agree that in the long run, Rome is what matters for Christians in the West, and the Roman bureaucracy’s inability to deal with the sick corruption in its own ranks is not simply a problem for Roman Catholics. If the Orthodox Church in America’s leadership goes down in a corruption scandal (as happened just over a year ago), nobody much notices outside of Orthodox circles. Rome has a much larger footprint.
You did once agree about the Roman primacy. Rome, the capital of the world, the eternal city, the place of martydom of Peter and Paul, when Byzantium was a byway on the Bosporus and Moscow a primitive forest hamlet. Are “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” and “Thou art Peter” triumphalist, tendentious, obnoxious and off-putting?
But that aside, haven’t you confuted yourself? You don’t agree about Roman primacy because I indulge in a bit of persiflage. But you do agree that Rome is what matters for the West. Why, for example, should the good Lutherans who heard Benedict talk of unity care about pervert priests? Why should a Catholic scandal matter to them? Why does Rome matter for the West?
Look, I am as disgusted as you are by the situation in the Church. But, though I have often pondered it, I cannot make the intellectual and creedal leap to apostasize. I have been told more than once, usually by liberals, if I don’t like the Church then find another one. My reply is always, there is no other one. So I stay, bad Catholic that I am. And I am grateful that a free press in this country has exposed the filth that perennial church secrecy kept hidden. Foul deeds will rise….
My only regret is that if the damn masons who screwed up the liturgy had imported Orthodox chant instead of hum and strum folk singers and corybantic nuns, I would have gone to church more often.



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TTT

posted March 19, 2010 at 12:08 pm


If Ratzinger was told of this German priest raping an 11-year-old boy and his ONLY response was to send the guy off for therapy–not informing civil authorities–then he engaged in criminal obstruction of justice at best, and arguably criminal conspiracy to commit rape.



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rob

posted March 19, 2010 at 12:45 pm


This is an institution that claims to be the best representation there is, or ever has been, of the teachings of Christ. Come on, you have to be brain dead to have any positive expectations from the Church. Get serious.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 19, 2010 at 1:10 pm


GrantL,
“Justice will only be done when those who have preyed upon children have held to full account and the institutional coverup that allows the crimes to continue is completely done away with. This is ALL about the children. There is no other reason for getting upset. These men abused children. Their superiors covered it up. Believers try to make light of it saying oh its not that bad, or this is a mean attack on the pope or what about the other guys down the street doing bad things.”
You’ll never hear me say that the attacks on children are not that bad. But as one who has worked with abused children, I DO ASK what about the other quarters where the problem is even worse, where the coverups by school boards and clergy are just as odious?
It’s been over twenty years since the filth in my Church has begun to surface in successive waves of revelation. Thanks to the exclusive focus on the Church, Catholic children may well be some of the safest on the planet. That works for me, as I have three small children. However, for over twenty years now we have heard that cleaning up the Catholic Church will somehow lead to others cleaning up their act as well. Collateral benefit.
The problem is that it’s been over a generation, and the problem in other quarters has grown worse, not better. A generation ago, male teachers may have been suspect, but women could be trusted. No more.
AGAIN, I don’t say lay off Rome. I say tie the abuse in other quarters to the outrage and momentum in the Catholic scandal as a means of protecting all children. This derivative benefit theory is a bunch of crap. An entire generation has passed. An entire generation to clean the filth across the board and no one cares to tackle the job. None of the thousands of kids I worked with was ever abused by a Catholic Priest. It is they who are left out in the cold as the media beats the Roman drum.
“I am somewhat puzzled by your constant refrain of “what about the children?” as if calling for a whole sale clean up of wretched criminal priests and wanting their boss to finally accept fully the responsibility that he and others have played in covering up what was done has nothing to do with the children.”
The exclusive beating of the Roman drum only protects Catholic children. Again, that works for me. But again, I must ask, what about all of the other children?
It’s been a generation with no derivative benefit to them in sight. But if that’s the world we are going to be content with, then fine, I’m with you. I’ll be parochial and praise God that MY Church is getting cleaned up, that MY children will be amongst the safest, that MY yard is getting a good decontamination.
You’ve convinced me. Good luck to the rest of you.



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thomas tucker

posted March 19, 2010 at 2:29 pm


Gerard- you are exactly right.
I’m late to this post soI haven’t read allof the comments.
Nonethess, I’ll say what I believe to be true:
1) Thank God the situation in the Catholic Church is imrpoving due to the exposure, humiliation,
and lawsuits.
2) Enemies of religion and of the Catholic Church will use this scandal as an excuse to attack the
Church in general, and the Pope in particular. They long for the downfall of the Church and will
use whatever ammunition they can lay their hands on. Obviously, there is ammunition to use, but
they will also doctor it and spin it and twist it so you have to be judicious in evaluating reports.
3) Abuse in other sectors of society is as bad or even worse but has not gotten the media attention. It
really needs to.
4) I think there are times when it is wrong to judge people’s behavior in the past by today’s standards.
Not always, mind you, but sometimes. In regard to the Scandal, I think there was a time when
bishops listened to psychology experts who assured them that pedophile priests could be
successfully rehabilitated. There came a time when it became clear that such was not the case, but
it was true for a time and their actions at that time have to be evaluated with that in mind.



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GrantL

posted March 19, 2010 at 2:56 pm


Gerald, you still miss the point.
Are there other people who abuse children? yes of course. Do they have anything to with the systemic abuse of children by the Catholic church and institutional cover ups by the church (including actions and orders issued by the person who is presently the pope) that seem to be exposed year after year? NO!
Saying, as you are, that oh there are other children in the world being harmed to stop picking on my church so much, is disingenuous. It’s a deflection. No one is saying there are not other issues regarding child safety that have to be addressed but should be ignored because of criminals in the Catholic Church. You are actually creating an issue where non exists.
The fact of the matter is there is a very serious, long term problem within the Catholic Church that has yet to be properly addressed. That is just a fact and an avoidable one. And to say that this should be tied into a discuss that protects “all children”??? Uh sorry, but the abuse of children by Catholic clergy and the cover ups is an issue specific to the Catholic church and is properly addressed as such. It has nothing to do with some nut wandering the streets luring little kids. These particular crimes were committed by Catholic clergy and covered up by Catholic leadership.
Further, to suggest, as you have that pre material sex or condom use is an issue as serious as the abuse of children is the intellectual equivalent of of jumping into bed and pulling the covers over your head.
Thomas Tucker wrote: “In regard to the Scandal, I think there was a time when bishops listened to psychology experts who assured them that pedophile priests could be successfully rehabilitated. There came a time when it became clear that such was not the case, but it was true for a time and their actions at that time have to be evaluated with that in mind.”
Yah….no. The cover ups were not the actions of well intentioned men who were just acting on the best information they had, and then it turned out with new research that information was wrong. This was the direct result of an institution worried about protecting its reputation and in the case of some bishops, their own personal reputations. It is the direct result of an institution that figured that criminal justice did not require the use of police and the courts. These idiots figured they were going to deal with a criminal matter themselves, that their theological notions of “forgiveness” was justice enough.
It was not their call to make. It does not matter what their theology says, what a pope or bishop says. When a crime has been committed, particularly one against a child, the rules and theology of the church are no longer worth a hill of beans. It is a matter for law enforcement and the courts. These priests were criminals. Their church and superiors are not victims. They obstructed justice by believing their faith trumps the law.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 19, 2010 at 3:03 pm


Thomas and Joe,
Thanks for seeing what others do not, or will not admit to. I’m worn out by this barrage. All I can say is that my children are the beneficiaries of the white hot glare cast on the RCC. Too bad for the children in other quarters, whose predators could have been brought to heel a generation ago, but for the anti-Catholic bigotry that has driven the exclusive focus on our Church.
Such bigotry is not without consequence for the children in the protestant churches whose problems have been assessed by the insurance industry to be 2-3x greater than ours. The public schools are orders of magnitude worse, according to the US Dept. of Education. However, my children are home schooled and Catholic, and much safer for it. The anti-Catholic bigotry fueling the outrage at Rome ignores the plight of children in other quarters, whose suffering is somehow less an occasion of outrage.
There is such a thing as compassion fatigue, and after seven years of working with children who were savaged, and after twenty years of trying unsuccessfully to tie the momentum from the outrage at Rome to the abuse of children in other quarters in an effort to help all children, I’m done.
Beat the crap out of Rome, but search your hearts. God knows your motives, and in Matthew 25, Jesus tells us we’ll be damned forever based on, “whatever you failed to do for the least of these my brothers, you failed to do it for me.”



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Mary

posted March 19, 2010 at 3:06 pm


Thomas Tucker thinks the situation has improved. Not for a young boy in Illinois. From the an article that was in The Daily Herald this Wednesday.
Moments earlier, a vicar from the Diocese of Joliet testified Flores had received counseling after viewing pornography depicting young men having sex just three months before he was ordained in June 2009.
http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=366614&src=5



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jaybird

posted March 19, 2010 at 3:07 pm


Bottom line:
It is now an indisputable fact that the Catholic Church systematically covered up the rape of children across the globe, and knowingly, consciously put paedophiles in charge of more kids. Joseph Ratzinger – who claims to be “infallible” – was at the heart of this policy for decades.
Here’s what we are sure of. By 1962, it was becoming clear to the Vatican that a significant number of its priests were raping children. Rather than root it out, they issued a secret order called “Crimen Sollicitationis”‘ ordering bishops to swear the victims to secrecy and move the offending priest on to another parish. This of course meant they raped more children there, and on and on, in parish after parish. Yes, these were different times, but the Vatican knew then that what it was doing was terribly wrong: that’s why it was done in the utmost secrecy.
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-the-pope-the-prophet-and-the-religious-support-for-evil-1923656.html



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Andrea

posted March 19, 2010 at 3:25 pm


Blame it on celibacy. Men who are willing to be celibate for a life time have a better chance of being abnormal or so immature that they are more on a level with little kids. They need to let women become priests and allow married priests and that will go a long way towards solving the problem.



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Erin Manning

posted March 19, 2010 at 3:44 pm


I asked this question the other day, and I’ll ask it again: what do people actually want, here?
Do you want the Church to reform her policies, quietly and behind the scenes, to set up hotlines for abuse reporting, to make all Church employees, clergy and lay, and all volunteers undergo background checks and take classes in child safety and reporting of abuse, to comb through old diocesan records and catch anybody else who might have raised a flag back before people were fully aware of the extent of the problem (as was done in my diocese by people of the highest integrity), and to commit publicly and uncompromisingly to the safety of children? That’s already been done.
Do you want every bishop deposed, every hierarchical structure torn down, and the Church re-formulated to look like Protestantism? Not going to happen.
Do you want specific bishops punished in specific ways? Name the bishops and the punishments. I’ve seen the call on this thread for Law and Mahony to be laicized. Okay, then, what are the canonical grounds for laicization? What process would have to be instituted and followed? How long would this process likely take, given that we’re not talking about clerics asking to be laicized but who would likely fight the process, hiring their own canon lawyers and presenting a defense?
I realize that non-Catholics sometimes think that this stuff is quite easy to do–why, all the pope has to do is say, “Hey, you’re not a bishop OR a priest anymore! Deal with it!” But that romantic view of a despotic papacy isn’t even remotely grounded in reality. All right, so you think Law and Mahony should be laicized–bishops are hardly ever laicized, but it has happened. What are the grounds, usually?
Some examples I’ve seen given include a serious criminal conviction, heresy, egregious violations of the laws of the Church, and the like. Fernando Lugo of Paraguay was laicized, not at his initial request, but for running for public office against the laws of the Church. Emannuel Milingo was laicized after first being excommunicated; he married while a bishop, and also ordained married men as priests and bishops in defiance of Church law.
So, you’ve said, “Law/Mahony should be laicized!” Okay, then–how does the Church proceed?
And if you want other bishops deposed, forced to resign, laicized, or even excommunicated–again, how does the Church proceed? If the men in question have committed a crime, prosecute them for it! That will make it much easier for the Church to have grounds, in canon law, for the kinds of canonical penalties being sought, here.
While we’re on the subject, which bishops, aside from Law and Mahony, are we talking about, anyway? I’m assuming nobody wants to dig up a dead bishop’s body and hold a court of inquiry, though there is historical precedent for such a proceeding. So–of the bishops who are alive today, and who are still bishops, whom should we be going after with all the force of civil and ecclesiastical law? And of the bishops who are retired (or who soon will be), which should have to face punishments above and beyond retirement, what should these be, and how would you go about the legal (again, civil law or canon law) proceedings?
It’s quite easy to wring one’s hands and say through clenched teeth, “The Bishops must Pay!” The devil, as always, is in the details.



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GrantL

posted March 19, 2010 at 4:06 pm


Erin, you hit upon an interesting problem – by what means does the church reform itself? Not an easy question given the layers of arcane rules and procedures and theology that makes red tape in government look like peanuts by comparison.
I think really part of this has to be a whole sale clean up if the church is to be taken seriously ever again. There is going to have to be, I would submit, a willingness on the part of church leadership to say just because some of its rules and procedures are cherished and fairly ancient is not a reason to keep doing it. Tradition is not sufficient reason to do a thing.
More specifically, yes, if a church leader, up to and including the pope, learns of an abusive priest, the church MUST submit to civil law enforcement. The church must forever abdicate its attitude that it knows best, and it can handle its own criminals in its own fashion. Cannon law no longer applies to criminals. it is a matter for law enforcement and the courts. Retiring an abusive priest or a bishop who covered up abuse, including the pope, should be also submit to law enforcement. Covering up a crime is an obstruction of justice, pure and simple. Let them be tired in a criminal court where decisions will be made on evidence not on theology or religious rules far out of step with our justice system.
I’d also suggest the church needs to become democratic. No more of this dictatorial nonsense where a pack of old men decide which among them assumes the throne, and that man can them make pronouncements to millions of catholics telling them how to behave and so forth. Ordinary catholics aught to have the right to select the person who is going to lead them. As it stands right now, catholic clergy is accountable not to the people they are supposed to serve, but to the Vatican – which is part of the problem. The Vatican sees its own authority as the most important, which it manifestly is not in western nations. The true election of church leaders would go a long way in breaking the arrogance that leads to arch bishops issuing orders to keep abusive incidents silent until a victim is “18 plus 10 years.”
I suppose, in the end, for the church to have modern relevancy, it needs to be willing to realize that calling something “canon” doesn’t make it ethical or moral. Obviously this is not as simple as waving a hand or a wand or something, but the church is going to have step into the 21st century, or its continued to descent will finally result in it joining the empire that spawned it in histories rubbish bin.



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hlvanburen

posted March 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm


To Ms. Manning and Mr. Nadal…
Mr. Nadal stated: “I’ll be parochial and praise God that MY Church is getting cleaned up, that MY children will be amongst the safest, that MY yard is getting a good decontamination.”
Yet, we STILL see this kind of response…
//uscatholic.org/news/2010/03/vatican-official-urges-confidentiality-confessors-sex-abuse-sins
“VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A priest who confesses sexual abuse in the sacrament of penance should be absolved and should generally not be encouraged by the confessor to disclose his acts publicly or to his superiors, a Vatican official said.”
This statement was not made in the 1980s or 1990s. It was made THIS MONTH, and the very clear evidence that the Catholic Church leadership DOES NOT GET IT YET.
Ms. Manning, you ask this: “…what do people actually want, here?”
The Church has shown no hesitation to get out front and very public about many moral issues, using its imprimatur and cache to bring attention to them and to influence public policy. Yet, as this article shows, they have an incredible disconnect when it comes to the area of past AND PRESENT behavior of clerics within their own ranks.
I really can’t speak for others, such as victims of the abuse. What I would like to see is the Church take as public a stance with the abusers in its ranks as they have done with pro-choice legislators taking the Eucharist during Mass, or as they have done in other instances of political involvement. In short, what I would like to see:
1) Clear and unequivocal cooperation with local and national authorities attempting to investigate allegations of abuse. Any perception of stonewalling or using false claims of confidentiality to avoid cooperation should be severely punished.
2) The public identification and expulsion of those individuals who have either admitted to abusive behavior or have been clearly proven to have abused individuals, and the surrender of personnel files and internally collected evidence to appropriate legal authorities for use in prosecution.
3) Cooperation with legislators who wish to expand the statute of limitations for reporting abuse allegations, even if such laws only affect the Church. The time for using the public schools as a shield to avoid accountability is over. Only a moral coward would play this card.
4) Full and complete cooperation with victims and victim groups with regards to counseling, compensation, and restoration. The current Pope has made great steps down the path of cooperation, but there are many other things that can be done to help these victims. At a minimum the Vatican can make it very clear that any failure to cooperate to the fullest extent possible in bringing healing to these people will result in harsh discipline, including dismissal from position.
5) The Church needs to work with legislators, either at the state or federal level, to bring the Church (and all clergy of all faiths) under the umbrella of the Mandatory Reporter acts. It is an absolute crime that a secular counselor who hears an admission of abuse must report that to the authorities, but a minister who hears it in confession or counseling is exempt from that. This must stop if Mr. Nadal’s claim about being concerned for “all children” is to be taken seriously.
These are things that come to my mind in response to your question, Ms. Manning. I’m certain others will respond with their thoughts.
I do have a question for both Mr. Nadal and Ms. Manning, however. With the continuing revelation of abuse allegations, many being confirmed over time, and with the statements coming from the Vatican such as the one mentioned in the quote above, why should people such as myself pay any attention at all to the commentary of the USCCB, the College of Cardinals, or the Pontiff of the Church on other moral matters facing our world? Surely this is a case of being unable to remove the speck from your neighbor’s eye because of the plank in your own, is it not?



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hlvanburen

posted March 19, 2010 at 4:37 pm


“So, you’ve said, “Law/Mahony should be laicized!” Okay, then–how does the Church proceed?”
Well, regarding Cardinal Law, perhaps the first step in the process is to publicly apologize for moving him to the post in Rome in the first place. While that was a move made by Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict could offer a public acknowledgment that the move was improper and that the Church should have encouraged Law to stay in Boston and work with the authorities to resolve the allegations of inappropriate behavior. To my recollection there has been no such admission from any official in the Vatican.
Secondly, the Pope has the power to strip Cardinal Law of his current responsibilities and admonish him to spend the remainder of his days in prayer and penance, as he did with Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado in 2006.
The issue of extradition and/or cooperation with law enforcement would obviously depend on what legal actions authorities in Boston wished to pursue. At a minimum the Pope, as head of state of Vatican City, could issue an order that his subordinates cooperate to the fullest extent possible with any investigation involving Cardinal Law, to the point of extraditing him to the US if requested. To my knowledge no such statement has been made.
These are things that Pope Benedict can do, and has done in other cases. Why have they not been done?



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GrantL

posted March 19, 2010 at 4:40 pm


“Yet, we STILL see this kind of response…
//uscatholic.org/news/2010/03/vatican-official-urges-confidentiality-confessors-sex-abuse-sins
“VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A priest who confesses sexual abuse in the sacrament of penance should be absolved and should generally not be encouraged by the confessor to disclose his acts publicly or to his superiors, a Vatican official said.””
Well what more needs to be said? This is just more of the same. Theology over civil law. Catholic “forgiveness” over justice. The Vatican placing itself ahead of the justice system.
What is so interesting when you read that article is how the church officials quoted you get stuff like this: “In the case of priestly sexual abuse, for example, a confessor may want to recommend that a priest discuss the situation with superiors in order to avoid the occasion of future sins, they said”
So lets not call the police. The confessor knows a crime has been committed. But lets not do what any other citizen would be expected to do and contact the police. Lets keep in all in house, keep it quiet and have the criminal – because that is what he is – talk to his boss about how he can avoid engaging in criminal behavior again…This is textbook obstruction of justice.
how can people like Nadal and Manning here not just shake their heads in disbelief???



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GrantL

posted March 19, 2010 at 4:42 pm


Its also worth noting that in that article, the officials says the sexual abuse MIGHT be made public if someone else is falsely accused of the crime the priest committed…no talk about seeing justice done in a court of law….



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BobSF

posted March 19, 2010 at 4:46 pm


what do people actually want, here?
Oh, I don’t know. It would be nice, though, if the story of the next national scandal were broken by the Vatican. Wouldn’t that be refreshing?



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BobSF

posted March 19, 2010 at 4:56 pm


Any naive belief I had in the sanctity of the confessional was shattered quite early on in my Catholic education. Nevertheless, I can understand and I fully support protections for the confessional. As it always has, this will lead to some tragic injustices.
BUT let’s not kid ourselves here. The sacrament of Confession does not extend to paperwork and to all those who touch that paperwork. If the church bureaucrats blurred the line between confessor and paperpusher, that’s just too bad.



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hlvanburen

posted March 19, 2010 at 4:59 pm


With the attitude presented by the Vatican official, I truly have to wonder just how many other instances of abuse happened, and may still be happening, under this cloak of secrecy. At first glance the statement seems at odds with all the public pronouncements regarding transparency and cooperation that have been made, including the Dallas Charter.
ARTICLE 4. Dioceses/eparchies are to report an allegation of sexual
abuse of a person who is a minor to the public authorities. Dioceses/
eparchies are to comply with all applicable civil laws with respect to
the reporting of allegations of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities and cooperate in their investigation in accord with the law of the jurisdiction in question.
Dioceses/eparchies are to cooperate with public authorities about
reporting cases even when the person is no longer a minor.
In every instance, dioceses/eparchies are to advise victims of their
right to make a report to public authorities and support this right.



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GrantL

posted March 19, 2010 at 5:03 pm


BobSF, do you not think that justice is more than a sufficient reason for the over rule the “sacrament” of confession? Do you really want a church activity to be a haven for people who admit to be criminal activity? This should be a no-brainer: confessor learns of a serious crime in which a child has been harmed, the sacrament can and should be put aside.



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BobSF

posted March 19, 2010 at 5:26 pm


This should be a no-brainer
It’s not a no-brainer. It’s a difficult question and one that has tormented societies for, well, ever. Whatever the awful consequences, the confesssional is protected in our legal system.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confessional_Privilege_%28United_States%29
Until recent years, I thought the prohibition on torture was equally set in stone. I appear to have been proven wrong on that one unfortunately.
I really do believe that the principle outweighs the harm in the case of freedom of religion. I feel the same way about the prohibition on torture.
And I remind you that the scandal in the RCC is not about the confessional, it’s about administrative oversight (in both senses, sadly).
As for the press report from the Vatican, they’re blowing smoke, because it allows them to pretend they’re protecting something sacred when that’s not the issue at all.



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Lasorda

posted March 19, 2010 at 5:28 pm


Erin:
I’m not a canon lawyer. I am a regular lawyer. I’m also an orthodox Catholic in Los Angeles. It’s not my job to define the procedures by which the Vatican should laicize Cardinal Mahoney. Here’s what I can do. I can report to you that it is an open secret in LA that Mahoney and much of his entourage are actively gay men who are desperately afraid of being outed publicly. Discovery in the civil cases associated with several child rapes has threatened to out the Cardinal and members of his inner circle. The Cardinal has obfuscated, suborned perjury, sent witnesses to Canada to avoid subpoena, and generally inhibited both civil and criminal courts from pursuing justice; merely to avoid the embarrassment that would arise from the testimony of certain priests and former priests in Los Angeles.
Can you imagine the damage this is doing to the Church? This goes beyond scandal, Erin. I love the Holy Father. I believe he is reforming the Church in a way that will sustain it for many years to come. However, he needs to remove these men from the priesthood. I have no idea how. I don’t care how he does it. We cannot evangelize successfully until he does.



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Oda

posted March 19, 2010 at 5:31 pm


Erin, what would you say if there was an American jurisdiction which, for whatever historical or other reason, did not penalize forceable rape? I’m guessing you’d say, as I certainly would, the law needs to be changed.
If as you posit (I’m not a Canon lawyer, so I cannot opine in detail) current “Canon Law” procedures do not permit moral reform in middle management (the bishops, and up) then Canon Law itself needs to be changed until it does. This is a matter of survival. If the RC Church does not clean up its house, the whole institution, and Canon Law with it, is going down.
There is no legislature that needs to be persuaded, remember. Canon Law is what the Vatican says it is, and it can be (and has been) changed when needs must.
The idea that outraged parents and victims must sit in obedient silence while Bernard Law parades around in the Vatican in fine robes, out of the reach of American (or any but divine) justice, is not compatible with the continuing existence of this institution.



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public_defender

posted March 19, 2010 at 5:46 pm


Ms. Manning,
You’re right, I’m not a Canon lawyer. But here’s what the church could do–say, “We believe Law and Mahony should lose all rights and privileges that we can take away, and we commit now to doing that.”
I hope you are incorrect. Any organization that can’t rid itself of serial predators (and those who aided and abetted serial predators, it is a deeply, deeply, flawed and corrupt organization.



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public_defender

posted March 19, 2010 at 5:50 pm


Ms. Manning,
Do you really think so little of the Catholic Church that you think it must keep people it knows aided and abetted serial child predation in positions of power? I think many of the critics in this comment thread have been unfair, but your statement is one of the most damning I’ve read.



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Oda

posted March 19, 2010 at 5:59 pm


And as Lasorda points out, Roger Mahony is a stench in the nostrils of the Most High. (I’m in California.)
I’m sure he’s a nice man. I have several clients who are presently, and for the foreseeable future, guests of the Correctional Institutions of the State of California who are “nice men” on the telephone, but I have to say I’m glad they’re where they are and not out on the streets. It is possible to be a nice man and to be a criminal all at the same time.
Being a homosexual is not being a criminal. Protecting priests who have raped children or who, in one case personally known to me, priests who have fathered children on laywomen and then disavowed all responsibility, well, that’s a very different case, yes?
Erin, I have the idea that for you it isn’t. That whatever Cardinal Whoever does comes in with the presumption of holiness. Or something. I’m not surprised by this, but I am baffled just a little. Those of us who care for the Church and her survival are angry with men like Mahony and Law who are undermining her.



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Oda

posted March 19, 2010 at 6:00 pm


@public_defender, Amen, and I say again, amen.



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Jon

posted March 19, 2010 at 6:05 pm


Roland,
We Orthodox would welcome the Bishop of Rome if he returned to his role of the early Church– that of first among equals, not a monarchial dictator; and also if the Roman patriarchy ceased to insist on dogmatizing certain dubious or unnecessary theologoumena.



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Liam

posted March 19, 2010 at 6:18 pm


When a Pope wants to, he can remove someone from the College of Cardinals. It’s been done before. He can also remove them from assignments in Curial congregations (Cdl Law is, damningly, still a member of the Congregation for Bishops). Rome has carefully constructed things so that no one else can hold bishops accountable but Rome; therefore, Rome must do it or risk the consequences for its failure to do so. The whining by Rome, however, is disgraceful, as are the whines of those co-dependent with it in this regard.



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Oda

posted March 19, 2010 at 6:26 pm


@Erin
He [the Pope] can also remove them [bishops] from assignments in Curial congregations (Cdl Law is, damningly, still a member of the Congregation for Bishops).
Cardinal Law is still a member of the Congregation for Bishops because neither John Paul nor Benedict believe that he did anything wrong, much less criminal. They apparently believe that he was a “victim” of the American press. Or of “anti-clericalism.” Or of “secularism.” Or something. In the absence of verbal justification (of which we peons are not worthy) we don’t know what the excuse would be, precisely.
Actions speak louder than words.
Don’t give them money. Not even a little bit of money. Some of it ends up in the hands of criminals.



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thomas tucker

posted March 19, 2010 at 6:47 pm


I agree with sacking any and all of these miscreant bishops. Justice requires it, and it needs to be done.
However, GrantL, there truly are some who were simply followingthe phsychological experts of the day in sending them off to rehabilitation and then allowing them to return to ministry.
As for the Vatican official quoted (the original interview is in L’osservatore Romano) it is clear when you read the article that he is talking about not requiring public confession as a requirement for absolution. The reason is onvious, if someone has done something illegal, and you require them to go to the authorities as necessary to receive absolution, then no one will confess these things in the confessional.



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Beth

posted March 19, 2010 at 6:49 pm


Lasorda, what is your source for the assertion that Cdl. Mahony is gay?



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Oda

posted March 19, 2010 at 7:05 pm


@thomas tucker, I was taught, back in the day, by which I mean the 1950’s, that to get absolution in the confessional for, say, theft, the requirement would be that you restore what you stole. That if the sin was murder, that you turn yourself in to the authorities. Otherwise, no “cheap grace,” as they say. No absolution without facing up to the consequences.
If someone has violated the civil law (and, in this case, the Law of Common Sense), it would be routine in any other case to require, as a condition of absolution, that the person turn themselves in to the civil authorities and take the consequences of their actions.
Cardinals, Popes, and bishops are apparently, according to current thought, exempt from this rule, which I was taught before the earth cooled. I thought it applied to everyone, whatever “high” office he may have occupied. My bad. Bernard Law, Roger Mahony, and any number of other prelates, including, apparently, Josef Ratzinger, are exempt from this requirement.



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Oda

posted March 19, 2010 at 7:10 pm


@thomas tucker, I was taught, back in the day, by which I mean the 1950’s, that to get absolution in the confessional for, say, theft, the requirement would be that you restore what you stole. That if the sin was murder, that you turn yourself in to the authorities. Otherwise, no “cheap grace,” as they say. No absolution without facing up to the consequences.
If someone has violated the civil law (and, in this case, the Law of Common Sense), it would be routine in any other case to require, as a condition of absolution, that the person turn themselves in to the civil authorities and take the consequences of their actions.
Cardinals, Popes, and bishops are apparently, according to current thought, exempt from this rule, which I was taught before the earth cooled. I thought it applied to everyone, whatever “high” office he may have occupied. My bad. Bernard Law, Roger Mahony, and any number of other prelates, including, apparently, Josef Ratzinger, are exempt from this requirement.



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Roland de Chanson

posted March 19, 2010 at 7:15 pm


Erin: Do you want every bishop deposed?
Hardly that. Not every bishop moved perverts among parishes to protect them. Who has advocated such a thing?
Name the bishops and the punishments
I have on many occasions named Law. The punishments I’ve suggested range from cloistering and perpetual penance to sackcloth and ashes in the Egyptian desert with locusts for lunch to (here, only half jocularly) Prefect of Papal Latines. Let him clean the loos. St. Bernadette scrubbed floors after she was visited by the Virgin. Why does Law merit an archpresbyterate of a papal basilica? Something is rotten in the state of Vatican City.
I’ve seen the call on this thread for Law and Mahony to be laicized. Okay, then, what are the canonical grounds for laicization?
Criminal facilitation. Is that not in the CIC? Then it is bad law that lacks a remedy for so elementary an offense.
But there need be no grounds in canon law. He could just be deprived of any assignment. Who says he needs any post at all? But you can go to Santa Maria Maggiore any Sunday and there he is in full regalia, a “prince of the Church”.
He is the archetype of scandal, the epitome of turpitude, the quintessence of squalor.. And his pompous parading about in public makes a mockery of the Church. Papa Ratzinger is derelict in his duty by not removing him.
Erin, do you criticise anything at all about the Church?



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Erin Manning

posted March 19, 2010 at 7:23 pm


Let me address as many of you as I can in the time I have; I’ll probably break this into a few posts.
GrantL at 4:06, I appreciate the irenic nature of your tone. However, what you have called for, essentially, is for the Catholic Church to cease being the Catholic Church and become a new flavor of Protestantism. This is not an option which has ever been on the table, but I suspect that you have voiced the secret desire of many. Let the Church stop being the Church, let her be no different from a million megachurches run by committees, and some of you might be satisfied. Might. But, as I said, for the Church to stop being the Church is not, and never has been, and never will be an option–if it had, do you really think she’d have survived the Borgia popes, let alone the dawn of the Reformation?
hlvanburen at 4:22, let’s take your points one at a time:
1. Agreed, but within the law. That is, *actual* confidentiality must be respected, as it would if police were raiding the offices of a psychiatrist. The rights of those involved to avoid self-incrimination are not Church rights but constitutional ones, so let’s not shred the constitution, either. Search warrants, etc., must be properly applied for and obtained. The Church doesn’t somehow have a *greater* obligation to let prosecutors rifle through their documents than anybody else, though within the law the Church ought to set a good example of forthright cooperation.
2. Also agreed, with the same caveat. The Church isn’t immune to being sued by someone who claims he was falsely identified as an abuser. And, again, the Church should hand over anything for which a proper search warrant has been obtained. The Church should not simply open the chancery doors to prosecutors and say, “Hey, look around, and help yourselves to anything you like.” Nobody should, frankly.
3. Not agreed. Expand statute of limitations laws, certainly. I firmly believe, though, that it would be unconstitutional to write such laws in such a way that only the Church was affected by them. I think there should be no statute of limitations on child sexual abuse charges at all, and would at least prefer very lengthy ones; however, as child victims of any kind of abuse will tell you, obtaining any legal redress becomes significantly more difficult as the years pass, because of the lack of evidence, the aging of perpetrators, and so on. Better and earlier reporting and swifter redress in the legal system will help all victims of child sexual abuse.
4. Agreed, and progress is and continues to be made in this area. Now, this is not a “But other groups do it!” cry, but why not work on doing the same thing for victims of other abusers as well? This is a tangent, perhaps, but being victimized as a child often leads to becoming an abuser as an adult, if the abuse isn’t properly addressed. We as a society would benefit if counseling for victims of child sexual abuse were fully funded by government and charitable sources so that all victims could have access to such counseling. Speaking strictly as a Catholic, I’d be happy to put money in the collection basket for a fund designated for this purpose.
5. Don’t agree. Priests have died rather than break the seal of the confessional. Moreover, anonymous confession (despite the trendy push for face-to-face) is still the norm in many places. A priest who hears a voice behind a screen or curtain may *think* he know who is making the confession, but he has absolutely no certainty, especially in this day and age when a person might avail himself of the Sacrament of Penance in a parish church other than his own, far from home, even. It would place a priest in legal jeopardy if he had to report a confession under such a circumstance, since he might, after all, accuse a totally innocent person of having been the one kneeling beside the screen or curtain.
This is getting long already, so I’ll move to another post window.



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Roland de Chanson

posted March 19, 2010 at 7:24 pm


Jon: We Orthodox would welcome the Bishop of Rome if he returned to his role of the early Church– that of first among equals, not a monarchial dictator; and also if the Roman patriarchy ceased to insist on dogmatizing certain dubious or unnecessary theologoumena.
You’ll get no argument from me on that, Jon. The Orthodox still regard the Bishop of Rome as primus inter pares. The days of papal monarchy are over.
And I agree that the propensity to dogmatise has been excessive in the past. For example, I think that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is a far greater stumbling block with more theological import than the filioque. But what you or I think is of no relevance. There are interest groups now pushing for the Theotokos to be named Co-Redemptrix. Properly understood this title is innocuous. But it won’t be properly understood. Besides, what greater title is there than Theotokos, Bogoroditsa, Dei Genetrix?
Benedict is under pressure – he wants to continue the push for Christian unity. The offer of ordinariates to the TAC community’s initiative is a prime example. His overtures to the FSSPX are another. And he and Kirill are on far better terms than their predecessors were. But Archbishop Hilarion has publicly criticised the liturgical chaos and abuses in the Roman Church and he is right. And Hilarion is not only a liturgical scholar, he is a composer of genius.
Hence Benedict’s unwillingness to discipline bishops. Leave it to the national synods, lest the pope be seen as an absolute monarch.



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Erin Manning

posted March 19, 2010 at 7:59 pm


Continuing on:
Hlvanburen again, from 4:37: Maciel was, indeed, invited to a life of prayer and penance–because he himself was credibly accused of sexual abuse, and (as we now know) had fathered children; however, he was too old and ill to stand trial, making the “invitation” to the life of penance the best of several bad options. I await the Vatican’s decision on the organization Maciel left behind; my own hope is that it will be completely dismantled, but at the very least it needs a thorough re-formation to remove from itself the lingering taint left by the sexually deviant con man who ran it.
Law is accused of having criminally covered up abuse in Boston. If the prosecutor plans to charge him with this he should indeed be removed from his post and sent back to America to stand trial. But if he is not formally charged, what ought to happen, and how ought it to happen? The punishments you suggest might be just ones, and for all I know Pope Benedict may be considering them. One thing I don’t expect, and never have expected, is for Rome to act quickly; another thing, though, is that I also don’t think Law is a priority, especially not with new scandals breaking and needing resolution under a rather different papacy. He has been “dealt with” however insufficiently, and though we may think of his assignment as “cushy” I’m fairly certain that Europeans have a different notion of what “exile in disgrace” means than we mobile Americans. Should the Pope spend more energy going over the decisions of his predecessor or making new ones related to new revelations?
To those variously discussing confession: I do think that a priest who confesses sexual abuse ought to be told to report the crime. I also agree that in the practical reality this might simply mean no priest would ever confess it again. If you’re raping kids, after all, what are a few sacrilegious, lying confessions on your soul?
Lasorda, I understand where you’re coming from. I’m not a lawyer so I want to word this carefully. If this were a fiction story, the Vatican could, perhaps, dispatch albino assassin Opus Dei monks to LA–problem solved (though, of course, I don’t condone assassination which is clearly against the fifth commandment). This is not a fiction story, but in the real world, some “gotcha” journalists have successfully recorded and filmed some institutional corruption from Acorn, Planned Parenthood, etc. It is not possible for the Vatican to collect evidence of Mahony’s alleged secret gay life. It is not possible for the Vatican to come in and say, “Hey, we hear you’re gay, and that because of that secret you’re deliberately obstructing justice,” and throw him out. It is possible for lay people to charge him with obstructing justice, if that can be proved. Might it, hypothetically, purely as an intellectual exercise, be possible for intrepid lay people to collect the necessary evidence to which you have alluded and prove that Mahony has the motive to obstruct justice in these cases, so to speak?
I’ll continue…



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Lasorda

posted March 19, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Lasorda

posted March 19, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Lasorda

posted March 19, 2010 at 8:40 pm


BTW, I’m not suggesting that Mahony should be thrown out because he’s gay. I’m suggesting he be thrown out because he is at the head of a criminal conspiracy to protect child rapists. My goodness. It is beyond frustrating to have to explain to other Catholics that these bishops are rotten. If they are rotten, the need to be thrown out. This is not rocket science. If one of my employees is ever investigated by the US Atty’s office for heading up a conspiracy to protect child rapists, I’m firing that person. What a disgrace that I even need to explain this to anyone.



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Erin Manning

posted March 19, 2010 at 9:06 pm


Public defender–you write: “Do you really think so little of the Catholic Church that you think it must keep people it knows aided and abetted serial child predation in positions of power? I think many of the critics in this comment thread have been unfair, but your statement is one of the most damning I’ve read.” Counselor, I think that the Catholic Church should remove people it knows aided and abetted serial child predation from positions of power. However, you know quite well that what we mean by “knows” is a word fraught with legal meaning.
Has Law been charged in Boston with a crime? Have prosecutors (as some suggested) contacted Rome to insist that Law be returned to face trial? Or is it the case, despicable though it may be to us, that the law requires a standard of proof of criminal malice, criminal negligence, or some other such thing, and that even in the case of Law that standard has continued not to be met?
I’ve already discussed the notion that Law should be punished in some other way, which I don’t really quibble with (though, again, I’m not certain that it is a priority for Pope Benedict to re-visit his predecessor’s decisions in these matters and painstakingly re-evaluate them all). But when we begin to speak of laicization or even the removal from the office of bishop (let alone Cardinal, which has been done only once in the last century, if I’m not mistaken) we speak of needing proof that the person in question has either committed civil crimes (and been duly charged and convicted) or is being charged with ecclesiastical crimes (for which he must face an ecclesiastical trial).
Roland, I criticize plenty of things about the Church. But, going back to what GrantL wrote earlier this afternoon, I see in a lot of people’s complaints about the present state of things the wish to make the Church something she is not–a loosely organized, Protestant, democratic, faith-by-committee type of structure which would possess no particular insight into Christ’s life or work and thus have no particular message for the secular world (and you can pretty much forget the sacraments as well, since without a hierarchy and ordained clergy you might as well be handing out Triscuits ™ and grape juice.
I see, as I refresh the page, that there are a few more people to address; will do.



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Oda

posted March 19, 2010 at 9:12 pm


Erin,
I do notice that you skipped lightly over the question of Bernard Law in your lengthy posts. Holding his current position is hardly, either by American or European standards, “exile in disgrace.” (A Renaissance palace, a staff of servants, the respect of the visitors, an important post in the Vatican…..that kind of “disgrace” we could all live with, I daresay.) Whether or not he violated a criminal statute in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, it is clear to anyone who is even slightly acquainted with the facts that he protected known pedophiles.
“It’s all just an American problem” doesn’t cut it any more, not with the Pope himself implicated. Bernard Law’s honorable position is a scandal not just to Americans, but to anyone who knows anything about the facts at all.
Should the Pope spend more energy going over the decisions of his predecessor or making new ones related to new revelations?
He should do both. So far as I can tell, he’s doing neither.
You will believe as you believe, that the hierarchy and its decisions are sacrosanct, I think, even if the Pope himself is caught in the act of ax murder. There will always be people like you, but fewer and fewer. If the Catholic Church is to consist of anyone beyond you and about ten other people, something has to change, and Pope Benedict is in a very poor position to make those changes.



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Erin Manning

posted March 19, 2010 at 9:22 pm


Lasorda, I do, of course, read papers (mostly online, but still). I can quite agree, without a single qualm, that Mahony’s diocese is a hotbed of corruption and filth, and, further, that quite a bit of California is in the same boat (I had occasion to write to a California archbishop myself recently, and was chided for thinking that such things do any good. I don’t do them because they do good; I do them because they are the right thing to do). In your first link a rather ingenious attempt to link Mahony to a type of fraud that is a federal crime was being made–back in January of last year; that is, the report comes from Jan. of ’09, and the work extended back further than that. While such efforts have my sympathies, I can guess that such an attempt would be a greatly uphill battle, relying as it does on a novel interpretation of words like services and fraud, and also requiring that the mails were somehow used to commit this fraud.
You write, “If one of my employees is ever investigated by the US Atty’s office for heading up a conspiracy to protect child rapists, I’m firing that person.” Fine–but you also take on yourself the risk of being sued by the person should there end up being insufficient evidence to prosecute.
Again, if Mahony is guilty of “heading up a criminal conspiracy to protect child rapists” (in your words), then he must be charged with this crime. I believe in justice–but for justice to be applied, it must first be tried.



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Lasorda

posted March 19, 2010 at 9:32 pm


Erin, what you don’t know about employment law is a lot. A. I can fire an at will employee if he is the target of a federal criminal investigation involving a conspiracy protect child rapists from a subpoena. Trust me, this is legal. B. Are you suggesting that Cardinal Mahony might sue the Holy See if he were removed from office. I’m not sure I know how to respond to such a fatuous comment. You are spinning your wheels. I’m going to cool off. I probably already need to go to confession as a result of this conversation.



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Erin Manning

posted March 19, 2010 at 9:33 pm


Oda, again, as I wrote to Lasorda above, if it is clear that Law protected pedophiles in a criminal way, then charge him with the crime. Otherwise, what I see here from a lot of people is a lot of impotent rage–the pope should do this, the pope should do that, the pope should do the other, the pope isn’t being serious about child sex abuse unless he strips Law and Mahony of their clerical state (never mind that there are laws governing such procedures and that the pope isn’t a dictator).
We don’t want to take the risk (legally) of doing anything about Law or Mahony ourselves. We don’t clamor for the prosecutors in Boston or LA to charge these men with crimes. We just demand that Rome come up with some method of satisfying public humiliation for them, which will still only satisfy a handful of people, because the rest want to dismantle the hierarchy altogether, pass laws requiring the violation of the seal of the confessional, or otherwise tear down the Church.
I don’t believe that the hierarchy’s decisions are sacrosanct, particularly the administrative ones. But I refuse to be a tool in the hands of those who despise the Church and everything she is and teaches, and who seek to use the Scandal to further their own agendas.



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Liam

posted March 19, 2010 at 9:41 pm


Erin
You make the mistake of equating civil law with moral crime. Statutes of limitations and limitations on non-profit liability made things difficult for MA to prosecute Law directly, though he was whisked out of the country to Rome when insiders in the AG’s office tipped off his protectors that he was a target of investigation directly. He’s beyond the reach of the civil law in MA, and will likely only set foot in MA in a box.
Your strawmen are what I’d expect.



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Liam

posted March 19, 2010 at 9:49 pm


And, while defrocking Cdl Law would involve canonical process, no such process is required to (1) remove him from Curial congregations, (2) remove him as archpriest of the Liberian Basilica, and (3) even require his resignation from the Sacred College (Pius XI rather famously required such from a cardinal who supported the Action Francaise). The Pope’s failure to do any of these things remains a burden on the local church of Boston. Big time. This whole new chapter of things European is re-opening prior wounds. And the salvation of souls is very much in the balance: a close friend of mine today whose been hanging on in the Church by a thread these past years has pretty much indicated he’s lost his remaining faith in the hierarchy’s willingness and ability to shepherd their flock ahead of saving their own skins. Apologias like yours read like poison to people like him.



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Roland de Chanson

posted March 19, 2010 at 9:56 pm


Erin,
The Law case isn’t about criminal law in Massachusetts. The Attorney General determined that (if I remember correctly) the statute of limitations had expired in the cases brought before him. Reversion to the civil government is irrelevant in any event. If there is not remedy in either statutory canon law or equity (is there such a thing?) or even in simple Christian justice, then the whole damn thing is a sham.
Except for the bit about “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” It is a novel bit of eisegesis that turns that into the Geoghanesque “Let the little children suffer to make me come.” Geoghan was a protégé of Law.
What is it, though, that you do criticise about the Church? You are not required to defend the indefensible to be a good Catholic. You’re probably a better one than either Peter the Denier or Paul the Persecutor anyway. ;-)
Until there is accountability, and an end of criminal secrecy, I say again with Voltaire Écrasez l’infâme.



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Lasorda

posted March 19, 2010 at 9:57 pm


Liam, thank you.



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Oda

posted March 19, 2010 at 10:56 pm


We are witnessing the death of a great institution, one that has been the underpinning of European civilization for 1500 years.
And the leaders did it to themselves, without outside help.
It is impossible I think not to feel some sadness, even while we recognize the inexorable justice of the thing, as God’s justice always is.
Liam, the “salvation of souls” is only “in the balance” if you think you have to be a Roman Catholic to be saved. There are and will be a lot of people struggling with this collapse, but I believe that the Holy Spirit has a lot to teach us all in the form of this catastrophe if we are wise enough to listen.



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public_defender

posted March 19, 2010 at 10:58 pm


So, Ms. Manning, the standard for whether a cardinal can keep his job is whether secular prosecutors can prove a crime as define by secular government within the secular statute of limitations and proven with evidence admissible under secular rules of evidence? All that after the wrongdoer engaged in a systematic cover up for decades? That’s the standard for removal of high officials? If true, that’s pathetic.
I admit, I fell into a standard trap. It’s dangerous to talk about possible criminality. Then people have the tendency to say, “Hey, they can’t prove I committed a felony, so I’m OK.”
You also write:
But when we begin to speak of laicization or even the removal from the office of bishop (let alone Cardinal, which has been done only once in the last century, if I’m not mistaken) we speak of needing proof that the person in question has either committed civil crimes (and been duly charged and convicted) or is being charged with ecclesiastical crimes (for which he must face an ecclesiastical trial).
Imagine the reaction if a major corporation said, “We’ve only fired a vice president once in the last century, how can you expect us to fire one now? That’s not how this company operates! Our bylaws make it really hard to punish vice presidents. Don’t you understand? We’re special! If you want us to fire him, get a conviction for a felony, and then we’ll talk.”
Maybe, just maybe, part of the Catholic Church’s problem is that only one cardinal has been canned in a century. Every boss makes bad hiring and promotion decisions. Good bosses in good organizations recognize their mistakes, fire people from time to time, and move on. (And they don’t wait until a prosecutor wins a conviction to act.) When internal company policy makes it too hard to fire bad actors, the company needs to look at those rules. If the Catholic Church’s internal “ecclesiastical” rules prevent it from firing bad actors, there’s a problem with those rules. It should always be much, much harder to get a criminal conviction than to fire someone.
I’m not one who delights in seeing the Catholic Church in pain. I wish it a speedy recovery. But excuse making and a refusal to hold anyone accountable with real church-imposed consequences is preventing that. You and groups like the Catholic League are only enabling the church hierarchy to avoid what they really need to do–a serious housecleaning.



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Peter

posted March 19, 2010 at 11:19 pm


But I refuse to be a tool in the hands of those who despise the Church and ever
There it is. We don’t hold the church accountability, we don’t demand accountability, because it may show the church is weak and that its critics may be right



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Erin Manning

posted March 19, 2010 at 11:28 pm


I had written a lengthy response to Lasorda and others, only to have the dreaded CAPTCHA eat the whole thing (oddly, the backup copy I saved was fragmented, which is probably a computer problem on my end).
Briefly, to address Public Defender as well as others above, my standard is not one of criminal prosecution; I do believe in moral crimes, and I do believe that there are some left unpunished who should have been, and may yet be, punished.
But bishops aren’t vice-presidents, nor is the pope a CEO. And even if we accuse someone of a moral crime we ought to have some standard as to what that involves. Is wrongheaded administrative bungling and the application of rules that should have been obvious to anybody wouldn’t fix things a moral crime, or a lesser failing? If a bishop himself abuses somebody, that’s a moral crime; if a bishop moves a man credibly accused of child rape to parish after parish and ignores the damage, that’s a moral crime–but what about the many cases which don’t rise to that level, where there was at least some, however pathetically ineffective, way to address the matter?
Here’s the thing: I recognize that the Church, in her human side, contains human beings that are prone to everything from wickedness to idiotic behaviors and everything in between, and that bishops aren’t exempt from this reality. But suppose I choose to consider myself judge and jury, to decide on the basis of newspaper articles and hearsay that a particular bishop is guilty as Hell, and angrily demand that Rome Do Something about him, preferably something which I have personally recommended and which becomes my default understanding of the only thing “good enough” for Rome to do in the situation. Now suppose that Rome doesn’t do that thing–that somewhere along the way idiocy or bureaucracy or wickedness or CYA syndrome or even, just possibly, that the person I’m indicting isn’t actually guilty of what I am convinced he must be.
What then?
Do I leave the Church? Do I stay, and wallow in bitterness? Do I stay, and feel free to commit whatever sins I chose, since after all those blankety-blank Bishops–!
When it comes right down to it, there’s not a lot combox warriors can do about a bishop. Public defender writes: “But excuse making and a refusal to hold anyone accountable with real church-imposed consequences is preventing that…” speaking of a clean-up. However, again, what exactly ought I do to hold a bishop, or my Church, etc., accountable? I’m still trying to hold them accountable for felt banners and smile-button theology, and I’ve got to be honest with you, I haven’t made a hell of a lot of progress.



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Rod Dreher

posted March 19, 2010 at 11:30 pm


We are not seeing the death of the Catholic Church; I think some who say so are indulging in wishful thinking. The church may all but expire in Europe, but that was happening anyway. If the Church gave in to what progressive activists want re: becoming more socially liberal, that would in no way arrest its decline. Look at the Anglicans in the UK. Besides, to say that the Catholic Church is dying requires you to overlook the world outside of Europe.
Roland: But that aside, haven’t you confuted yourself? You don’t agree about Roman primacy because I indulge in a bit of persiflage. But you do agree that Rome is what matters for the West. Why, for example, should the good Lutherans who heard Benedict talk of unity care about pervert priests? Why should a Catholic scandal matter to them? Why does Rome matter for the West?
I stupidly chose a theologically loaded word — “primacy” — to express that I agreed with you over the prime importance of the papacy and the Roman Church as a matter of cultural and geopolitical affairs in the West. It truly would have been stupid to say I reject ecclesial primacy because an pseudonymous Catholic on a blog thread got cocky. Anyway, the Catholic Church made Europe, and in turn the West. It is our foundation. If we lose it, the damage will be absolutely irreparable. The Orthodox Church in the West could disappear, and it wouldn’t matter much in the long run. Same with the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church, and every other church. Catholicism is the mother faith of the West. It matters, and matters massively.
Watching the Catholic hierarchy destroy its own authority by the way it has mishandled the child sex abuse scandal was sickening to me as a Catholic, and led to a profound crisis of faith, and ultimately my loss of Catholic faith. Now it grieves me, but not in the same acute, personal way, for obvious reasons. It gets to me now because those children and their families ought not to have suffered this, and they deserve some measure of justice, which they will not get. Secondarily, it grieves me because with the decline of Catholicism’s authority, life in the West for all of us will get a lot more dangerous.
I do not believe civil authorities should railroad bishops, though I do believe they should not give bishops a break because of their status. I believe strongly in the sanctity of the confessional. I don’t even think that justice demands that the Pope laicize bishops who were deeply complicit in the cover-up of these crimes (though I would be impressed if laicization were imposed).
What I don’t get, and what I will never get, is why not a single Catholic bishop (to my knowledge) has ever lost his see on Vatican orders for his role in the scandal. Why is it so hard to understand that a man like Roger Mahony in charge in Los Angeles is a terrible scandal? Pope John Paul II once moved a loudmouth heterodox French bishop out of his see and into a titular one. As he was right to have done! But if a bishop teaching open heresy is cause to remove him from his see, why is a bishop facilitating the sexual abuse and exploitation of children not? The refusal of the Vatican to discipline its gravely problematic bishops by at least moving them to titular dioceses, gives the impression that the hierarchy doesn’t take sex abuse against children with the seriousness it deserves, and/or has confused the interests of the Church with its own interests.



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hlvanburen

posted March 20, 2010 at 12:15 am


Mr. Dreher posts at 11:30 PM: “The refusal of the Vatican to discipline its gravely problematic bishops by at least moving them to titular dioceses, gives the impression that the hierarchy doesn’t take sex abuse against children with the seriousness it deserves, and/or has confused the interests of the Church with its own interests.”
I would go further and say that this refusal undermines the efforts of many honest and ethical Catholic Clerics who are legitimately trying to clean house with regards to the issue of sexual abuse. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the statement from the Vatican regarding the policy on reporting confessed abuse incidents flies directly in the face of the USCCB Dallas Charter, and effectively negates one of its strongest statements.
The Bible promised Peter that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church. Catholics have long taken that as indication that Jesus was promising Peter that the Church would never fail.
As we are seeing, internal rot, not external threat, is the greatest danger to the Church, and nowhere in the Bible is a promise made to anyone that the Church cannot remove itself in this manner from the position in which Jesus placed it.



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public_defender

posted March 20, 2010 at 12:49 am


But bishops aren’t vice-presidents, nor is the pope a CEO.
Alas, true. Unfortunately, over the last few decades, bishops and the last two popes have, in some ways, made corporate America seem both virtuous and a bastion of accountability. The “we’re special and don’t have to follow the same rules as any everyone else” attitude is a HUGE part of the problem.
Dreher is right that this is not the end of the Catholic Church (although I disagree with him that the modern Catholic Church is more important to American society than many other faiths in this country). Any institution that has been around for this many centuries will find a way to survive. But if it wants to stem the loss of its moral authority, it needs to find a way to hold human beings in its leadership accountable. If its internal rules do not permit that, it needs to look at its internal rules.
And let me turn your question on you, Ms. Manning. If Canon Law does not provide a means of punishment, and if little ol’ you can’t do anything, then what mechanism of accountability do you propose? More of the same?
If you love the Catholic Church and want to give it a chance to regain at least some of its lost statute, it’s time to stop acting as its criminal defense lawyer. If there’s really nothing you or anyone else can do, God help you and your church.



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Erin Manning

posted March 20, 2010 at 2:30 am


Well, Public Defender, I do think that any alleged criminal does deserve a lawyer, and a fair trial, too.
What I said when I first started posting on this thread was simple: whom would you punish, and how would you go about doing it? Cries for the laicization of Law and Mahony seem to have dwindled a bit; the consensus seems to be that Law shouldn’t have his cushy job (but should, perhaps, be bishop of a titular see–would that really seem like a graver punishment to most people?) and that Mahony should–well, we’re still not agreed, other than a general “Throw the bums out!” sentiment that I’ve encountered before in religion, politics, and baseball. No bishop other than Law or Mahony has even been named, though I’m willing to stipulate that there might be others both a) still alive, and b) still in charge of a diocese–yet, as I said, these have not been named.
A lot of words get tossed around, words like “accountability” and “punishment” and even “prison.” But aside from GrantL, who very forthrightly set about his plans for essentially destroying the Church and replacing it with a democratic lay-run body not unlike a megachurch or a soup kitchen, nobody can seem to define for me how those concepts are to be brought to bear in a practical sense.
So I ask again: what do you want?
A lay-run Church?
A Church in which bishops are mere sacrament-dispensers, and in which priests are hired and fired by lay committees?
A Church in which all allegations of abuse are immediately taken as true, and the alleged abuser immediately laicized, without an investigation?
Or, perhaps, I can ask this a different way:
How would you go about instituting this “accountability” you speak of?
A lay governing board to whom the bishop must report quarterly and to whom he must give a full accounting of all administrative decisions from the previous quarter, with the penalty for an unsatisfactory report being dismissal from the diocese?
A lay body called the “Office of Diocesan Clergy Investigators,” whose job is to spy on parish priests and carry back any reports of untoward or red-flag behavior, with the full authority to place in a sixty-day suspension any priest of whom they have suspicions? (Heck, give them the power to remove priests who ad-lib at Mass and I could almost get behind this one).
A lay position at the chancery titled “Chief Administrator” who must co-sign everything the bishop signs in order for anything the bishop orders to have any force in the diocese?
If not any of these, then what? What would satisfy you that the right sort of Something is being done?
Now, my fellow Catholics are in on my little joke–unless I’m greatly mistaken, not one of those suggestions above would actually be permissible in Canon Law–because bishops aren’t vice presidents or corporate lackeys, but the successors to the Apostles, with a great deal of authority over their dioceses. And it has been this way since the very early days of the Church, so no, the Church isn’t very likely to put the office of the bishop on the chopping block, so to speak.
Of course, saying that the bishops are the successors of the Apostles doesn’t mean they are holy, or good, or wise, or even barely tolerable as human beings. They may be greedy, or vicious, or foolish, or selfish, or any other thing–the Church has had plenty of downright evil bishops in her history. But that there are evil bishops sometimes doesn’t make it likely that the Church is going to turn the office of bishop into something rather like a political party’s branch office head, because the Church herself has no power whatsoever to do any such thing.
So: how would you make the bishops accountable, without having them cease in any real way to be bishops? I await some creative answers; instead of blaming me for not coming up with solutions, tell me what you would do.



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Liam

posted March 20, 2010 at 6:13 am


Erin
One could insist on revival of synodal government whereby provincial or primatial synods of bishops can discipline their members. In olden times, bishops were more frequently deposed from their sees. The fact is that Rome has gotten rid of such safeguards over the centuries to gather more control in the name of protecting the independence of the Church – in doing so, it has sowed this current whirlwind.
Your lack of creative answers seems very much tied to a belief that the current way bishops are chosen and disciplined is how it always has been. Not so. And your attribution of malicious motives to those of us practicing Catholics who do understand this marks your arguments as co-dependent with the current structure and thus part of the problem.



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public_defender

posted March 20, 2010 at 7:49 am


So: how would you make the bishops accountable, without having them cease in any real way to be bishops? I await some creative answers; instead of blaming me for not coming up with solutions, tell me what you would do.
Maybe you’re right. Maybe there’s no way within the internal rules of the Catholic Church to impose real punishment on bishops and cardinals. They sound like Teamsters, except with stronger protections from wrongdoing. And that bodes ill for the church’s influence in the future.
The lack of public accountability may have worked for centuries when no real free press could hold the church’s feet to the fire. I wonder if the sexual abuse problem now is really no worse than it’s ever been, but we just know about it now. And the old turtle defense just isn’t working any more.
In its long history, the Catholic Church has never really faced such a strong and free press based in thriving democratic societies. Maybe what worked for centuries doesn’t work so much anymore. And maybe that’s why the church (as well as all conservative Christianity) seems to be strongest where democracy is weakest.
Despite my criticisms, the Catholic Church has done and is doing a lot of good. It is sad to see an organization that is capable of so much good unable to purge itself of those who commit so much bad.



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Michael C

posted March 20, 2010 at 8:34 am


“As long as we have the power structure totally dominated by celibate males, there’s something not right about the way in which we then identify issues about healthy sexuality and about the appropriate way to be affectionate and responsive with children or others.”
Testimony to the Winter Commission from a group of nuns regarding the abuse in Newfoundland, twenty years ago.
All the church has done since then is make a priest more isolated. It has been going on for a thousand years, and nothing that happened in the last twenty will change that.



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Michael C

posted March 20, 2010 at 8:50 am


As a Catholic teenager in the 50’s, when I awoke in the morning with an erection, it invariably ended up in huge feelings of guilt, and a trip to the confessional as soon as possible, in case I should end up in hell.
Translate that into a priest of 35, who has lived with that since being a teenage seminarian. I am amazed IF only 4% of them are so repressed that they end up abusing.



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sigaliris

posted March 20, 2010 at 9:49 am


My simple answer to Erin’s lengthy, indignant rhetorical questions–here’s what I want for starters:
Any time a priest (or other religious) is accused of abuse, his (or her) superiors IMMEDIATELY report the matter to the police personally, as well as giving the alleged victims any assistance needed to make sure they can also contact the civil authorities. Employment records and any materials relevant to a criminal investigation are turned over promptly and cooperatively, without concealment or legal legerdemain. The priest in question is removed from active ministry with potential victims until the investigation is concluded. True pastoral care from superiors would also mean that, even if a criminal case can’t be proven, if the superiors feel there is still a reasonable suspicion that the priest MIGHT be an offender, they make sure, to the best of their ability, that he doesn’t have the opportunity to offend again. A priest who won’t cooperate with this process, who flees, refuses to testify, etc. should be immediately laicized.
Any kind of rehabilitation or counseling needed by victims should be promptly and graciously paid for by Church authorities. With no whining about what this is going to do to their budgets, and no stalling and casting of doubt on the victim’s story, his character, or what he really needs according to them. Victims must be allowed to choose their own therapy–i.e. no fair saying you can only get counseling if you go to Catholic Social Services to get it.
Any bishop or superior who fails, or has failed, to carry out these simple steps should be publicly censured by the Pope and should be deprived of his office. Yeah . . . I know that’ll never happen because there wouldn’t be enough bishops to staff a coffee shop if this were put into practice. And the Church would have to buy a rather large island to ship the miscreants to. There aren’t enough sinecures in Rome.
So, those are my suggestions, Erin. I await several more yards of verbiage explaining why that is simply impossible.



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Roland de Chanson

posted March 20, 2010 at 9:49 am


Rod: I stupidly chose a theologically loaded word — “primacy” — to express that I agreed with you over the prime importance of the papacy and the Roman Church as a matter of cultural and geopolitical affairs in the West.
Fair enough. To be precise though, the Church has had that importance in the past. Since the rise of parliamentary democracy since the Enlightenment, that influence has waned. Still, it is the only church that is also a country, so that qualifies as geopolitical ipso facto.
It truly would have been stupid to say I reject ecclesial primacy because an pseudonymous Catholic on a blog thread got cocky.
Ouch! I’ll bet Bernie Law isn’t my biggest fan right now either.
(Actually, I’m only half pseudonymous. The “de Chanson” is a nom de clavier. )
Roland, hemipseudonymous cocky Catholic



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TTT

posted March 20, 2010 at 10:21 am


So: how would you make the bishops accountable, without having them cease in any real way to be bishops?
If “being real bishops” is mutually exclusive with having a mechanism to protect children from being raped and impose justice upon those who raped them, then the “real bishops” might as well go, and be replaced with some new form that can coexist with civil law.
Because what’s the point of having “real bishops” if they will permanently, and rightly, be under a cloud of suspicion for likely involvement in, at best, criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice, if not in fact criminal accessory to sexual abuse?
We closed the Statue of Liberty’s crown after 9/11. Damned sad, but you have to make choices in life.



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thomas tucker

posted March 20, 2010 at 10:40 am


I think Sig has some good proposals, but I would start with the parents or whoever discovers abuse to call the police themselves immediately instead of going to any Church official. Then the competent civil authorities can lead and start the investigation which is as it should be.
To anyone who thinks a synodal system would change anything- it wouldn’t.
Erin- you have been incredibly reasonable and thoughtfulin all of this. It is much easier to join with the crowd outside Frankenstein’s castle but that isn’t really helpful.
To all- please, for God’s sake, turn your attention to this problem in other places because it is even bigger there. Look at the latest articles regarding the Boy Scouts, and focus on the public schools, and above all, let’s ask why our own justice system is failing us by letting these pedophiles out again and again and again. It does little good to actually get these people arrested and convicted only to have them back on the streets re-offending again and that is happening over and over. It is simply no better than the parish transfers engineered by bishops that we all want vengeance for! So, without whitewashing any of this in the Catholic Church, if you don’t take action in these other areas then aren’t you sinning by omission? We simply have got to get a handle on this problem in all of society, and especially in the mistakes being made by our own justice systems, courts,and parole boards.



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Your Name

posted March 20, 2010 at 11:02 am


“The scandal is the cover up, and nothing has been done about that.”
“He’s done the classic American corporate bit of making low-level heads roll while leaving management and systems and culture untouched.”
“the big problem with the church’s response to sexual abuse by its agents, and the present pope is really still standing in this camp, is an attitude which says that dealing with the abusers is really an in-house Vatican issue.”
“I’ve covered cases for my paper of abusive priests shuffled around by bishops instead of being fired and turned over to the police. There persists this attitude that the clergy can police its own and somehow “forgiveness” constitutes justice. (Try to think of any other large institution – government, the military, a bank – that covered up or tried to hide a long trial of sexual abuse by its employees and what would happen when exposed. If the leaders of that institution said they felt THEY could best deal with it, heads would role)”
Etcetera … AD NAUSEAM>
Unless and until the official written Vatican policy to NOT report these crimes to the police (aka ‘Crimens Solicitationis’), there will never be sufficient ‘punishment’ or accountability, but only more shuffling and protecting of abusers.
Eternal shame and d@mnation be on the Pope’s head for prolonging this injustice.



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Your Name

posted March 20, 2010 at 11:14 am


Erin Manning,
“I asked this question the other day, and I’ll ask it again: what do people actually want, here?
See above re: the dismantling of Vatican policy NOT to report these crimes to the authorities (and no, the Vatican itself is NOT “the authority” I am speaking of.
Do you want the Church to reform her policies [...?]”
YES! Without hesitation.



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Oda

posted March 20, 2010 at 11:16 am


If a bishop himself abuses somebody, that’s a moral crime; if a bishop moves a man credibly accused of child rape to parish after parish and ignores the damage, that’s a moral crime
Yes, it is. Has any bishop ever been called to account for such crimes by being removed from office? Erin, do you really require a felony conviction in a civil court of law? Is that the standard? (So long as they can’t hang a major felony on you beyond a reasonable doubt, you’re home free.) Bernard Law resigned to a cushy and prestigious sinecure. What about the rest of them? Mahony still sits on his throne, such as it is. What the institution seems to be saying to these men, and this is why they keep doing it, by the way, is “not to worry, in the end there are no bad consequences for bad behavior.”
So: how would you make the bishops accountable, without having them cease in any real way to be bishops?
I was unaware, but am appalled to learn, that “bishop” means “dictator for life,” absolutely unaccountable to his superiors, to his equals or to the people of God, regardless of how bad his behavior might be. Furthermore, experience shows us that if the civil authorities come hot on his trail, he can rely on the institution to transfer him out of their reach (cf B. Law). No wonder men politic to become bishops. According to Erin, it’s a permanent Get Out Of Jail Free card.
your attribution of malicious motives to those of us practicing Catholics who do understand this [that the Church hierarchy must reform or die] marks your arguments as co-dependent with the current structure and thus part of the problem.
Sadly true. It is also true that there are every day fewer lay Catholics of this mindset. Perhaps when the few old men who are left face empty churches, some of them may wake up. That seems unlikely to me. Before the new thing can grow, the deadwood must be cut away. Who knew, 40 years ago, just how much dead wood there was?
I do not view the immanent demise of the Catholic Church as we have known it gleefully. I am not indulging in “wishful thinking” when I predict that demise. I’m appalled. However appalled I may be, I am not, all the same, blind.



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hlvanburen

posted March 20, 2010 at 11:21 am


Ms. Manning: “Well, Public Defender, I do think that any alleged criminal does deserve a lawyer, and a fair trial, too.”
The policy in schools in my area regarding allegations of sexual abuse by one of their staff members is an IMMEDIATE reporting to local authorities and a suspension WITHOUT pay for the duration of the investigation. If the investigation clears the staff member they are given back pay and restored to their position. If the investigation reveals that the allegations were proven, the suspension becomes a termination.
Criminal matters are the business of the judicial system, Ms. Manning. They are not the business of the educational system nor the churches. I would expect that the church should adhere to a standard no lower than those adopted, at the insistence of both state and federal law, by schools.
Would you agree?



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sigaliris

posted March 20, 2010 at 11:44 am


I wanted to apologize to you, Erin, for speaking snarkily of your long posts. You’ve taken on a difficult task in man(ning)ing the barricades against all comers, and goodness knows I am not in a position to complain of people who use a lot of words to get their point across. But I do find myself appalled to see so many words so earnestly expended to excuse what seems to me inexcusable. This cannot be smoothed over. For me, it doesn’t matter any more. Whatever the Church may do, I can’t see myself returning to its ever more shrunken and hardened bosom any time in the foreseeable future. But pastoral concern for the many others who are having crises of conscience and faith over this would surely cry out for decisive action to be taken, to demonstrate to people who still WANT to believe that it is possible to put their faith in the Church hierarchy without betraying their own internal compass. To be asked to trust a man as one’s pastor when he can’t even realize that child rape requires retribution and reparation is too much to ask for many Catholics who would otherwise have remained faithful. Should the Pope fire Sean Brady, or should he watch the Church in Ireland hemorrhage members as people find themselves with no other option than to vote with their feet? The answer seems obvious to me. Perhaps I’m wrong, and people are not really leaving the Church over this. I’m willing to await the data.



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hlvanburen

posted March 20, 2010 at 11:45 am


The Pope’s letter to the Irish People has been released.
blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100030721/pope-benedict-xvi-my-shame-and-remorse-over-irish-paedophile-scandal-full-text-of-letter-announcing-vatican-investigation-of-irish-dioceses/
It is a good letter in that it sets an appropriate tone for the upcoming investigations. Of course, actions speak much louder than words.



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Michael C

posted March 20, 2010 at 12:18 pm


According to the Letter, it is all the fault of Liberals and Vatican 2.
“In recent decades, however, the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values. All too often, the sacramental and devotional practices that sustain faith and enable it to grow, such as frequent confession, daily prayer and annual retreats, were neglected. Significant too was the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel. The programme of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it. In particular, there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations. It is in this overall context that we must try to understand the disturbing problem of child sexual abuse, which has contributed in no small measure to the weakening of faith and the loss of respect for the Church and her teachings.”
So I guess I was right to leave, I knew it was actually my fault.



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Michael C

posted March 20, 2010 at 12:22 pm


Funny though, In all my years I never found the need to abuse a child, nor did I feel the need to protect someone who did.
In my catholic family no one abused anyone, and I was an adult before I realised that such things happened…………to paraphrase the saying, If I wasn’t good enough for my family, I guess I wasn’t good enough for the Bishop.



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hlvanburen

posted March 20, 2010 at 12:32 pm


“Should the Pope fire Sean Brady, or should he watch the Church in Ireland hemorrhage members as people find themselves with no other option than to vote with their feet?”
I noted the Pope’s continued references to “the Irish Church”, as if it were an organization separate from the whole of the Catholic Church. It gives the impression, perhaps unintentionally, of distancing the Holy See from its Irish branch.
I find this rather different than past pastoral letters, by this Pope as well as his predecessors, which emphasize the unity of the Church under one authority (such as his letter “Proclaiming a Year For Priests on the 150th Anniversary of the Dies Natalis of the Cure of Ars”). It would be interesting to know if this difference was intentional, and if so what was the reasoning behind it.



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hlvanburen

posted March 20, 2010 at 12:38 pm


Michael C, I also find the blaming of these aspects of society somewhat…convenient. I am taken with the following statement from your quoted passage:
“In particular, there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations.”
Indeed…words are cheap. Let us see what this Pope, with his desire to return to a more traditional understanding of Catholic theology and practice, does to correct this “misguided tendency”.



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thomas tucker

posted March 20, 2010 at 1:04 pm


Michael C- brilliant example of interpreting the words throughyour own lens instead of reading what it actually says.



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Oda

posted March 20, 2010 at 1:05 pm


According to the Letter, it is all the fault of Liberals and Vatican 2.
Conveniently ignoring the fact that an awful lot of the abuse pre-dates the Council, sometimes by many years.
We see here again the distancing – referring to the “Irish Church” as though it was a separate entity, on Mars maybe, as though these very same exact problems were not occurring in Germany right under the former bishop’s own nose; blaming “society,” “social change,” anything and anyone, indeed, stopping just short of blaming the weather – anything, anything, but that the Vatican and the bishops were responsible for policing their priests and putting a stop to these abuses and failed their trust.
On the whole, this is not an encouraging letter. But perhaps his actions will prove more uplifting than his words.



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thomas tucker

posted March 20, 2010 at 1:13 pm


sig- Erin can answer for her self, but as for me, I can tell you that I will aways remain fiathful to the Church no matter how many leaders or members sin , and no matter how much they sin. The Church has had many periods throughout history of sinful and even evil leaders. So has every church and if you depend on the sanctity of your pastor for the security of your faith then you are setting yourself up for a fall. For me, the truth and beauty and integrity of Catholic doctrine and the grace pouring forth from the Sacraments instituted by Christ remain, in spite of the Church’s often sinful leaders.



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Michael C

posted March 20, 2010 at 1:28 pm


Thomas,
My lens is the only lens I have. Faulty it may be, but I suggest to you that others will see it my way.
Those of us who saw hope for the church in V2 have seen that hope vanquished and do not feel welcome in the Church of our cradle. It has become the Republican Party, paying lip service to fairness and equality.



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Erin Manning

posted March 20, 2010 at 3:02 pm


I’m glad the Irish letter is being discussed; hoping Rod will give us a post on it when he’s able so we can continue this conversation a little more easily.
First of all, Pope Benedict makes it perfectly clear in the letter that bishops and priests are, indeed, to cooperate with civil authorities. Some will see this as a change from the past, but having read what several canon lawyers said about Crimens Solicitationis (and, indeed, understanding the context of that document) I see it as a clarification. (I don’t want to sidetrack the discussion, but people do realize that Crimens Solicitationis dealt primarily with the crime of a priest soliciting a penitent in the confessional, right? Its rules were specific, in my understanding, to that situation.) As far back as 2002 there was a clarification in this regard, so the Holy Father’s present urging of bishops and priests to report crimes to civil authorities is not a new development.
I find the letter very clear and wise. The references to the “Irish Church” do not in any way imply that this is an Irish problem, but early on in the letter the pope says rather succinctly that while this problem has occurred elsewhere in the Church, and even in secular society, his present concern is for the Church in Ireland and he addresses them accordingly. (A side note: the Holy Father makes it clear that while we must not ignore the fact that the problem occurs outside the Church, we’re not entitled to point to its occurrence elsewhere as an excuse for the Church, either.)
I’ve only just finished a first, quick reading of it, and will probably be delving more into it later. But another thing that strikes me is that Pope Benedict *isn’t* saying what some have said here (e.g., it’s all the fault of Vatican II). He is simply acknowledging that some well-meaning procedures and practices implemented after the Council may have contributed to the present situation. I have to agree–because the practice of considering pedophilia a curable psychological problem certainly was at its peak in the 60s and 70s, and the push by the Church to employ secular experts and send priests for treatment (not only for this, of course, but for anything that was deemed to be a psychological rather than a spiritual issue) did indeed contribute to what later transpired. In no way can this be construed as “Vatican II caused the problem!” as some have said.
Those who wanted the pope to name and dismiss certain bishops will be disappointed, of course, but it would be pretty unseemly to do that in a letter, anyway. Of great interest is his mention of some Apostolic Visitations that will shortly take place. Given that here in America we’ve had a couple of these recently (the one involving the Legion of Christ has just wound up, and the report just sent to Rome, and, of course, the one directed at American nuns) it is interesting to see that this is the next step for the Church in Ireland. I would suggest that those Catholics who have written on this thread about the state of things in Los Angeles might petition the pope for such a visitation of the LA diocese.
Just a couple more things:
Hlvanburen, I do agree that allegations of abuse require immediate action–this is the policy of my diocese at this point, and I think it’s supposed to be the policy of every diocese in America. When I spoke, though, of those accused of crime needing a lawyer I was addressing Public Defender’s repeated accusations concerning the bishops. If specific bishops egregiously and criminally covered up child sexual abuse then they should be charged with that crime by civil authorities. If they have done so without criminal intent, but still in a way that compromises their office, they should be subject to whatever investigations and penalties Rome decides on (and, again, I think the idea of conducting an Apostolic Visitation and then pronouncing remedies is the right way to go). But if they have not done either of these things, but acted in good faith though in a way that we now know was ineffective, then they should have the ability to defend themselves from the charge of either civil or moral crimes.
Liam, your idea of synods is interesting; I certainly didn’t mean to imply that *no* remedy was possible. It’s just that most people I’ve conversed with about this seem to think that the only real remedy is to place bishops under permanent lay authority, which is problematic, or to reconstruct the Church in ways that remove the hierarchy altogether. Even now, the people who are going to be most disappointed with the pope’s Irish letter will be those who were convinced that he would either dismiss particular bishops, or make it clear that this was on the agenda.
Thomas Tucker, like you, I remain a Catholic. I am convinced that Jesus Christ intended to found a particular Church and that this is the Catholic Church. Like St. Peter, I sometimes say, “Lord, to whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life.” But believing as I do, hoping as I do, seeking as I do, I can’t go anywhere else, and would never voluntarily separate myself from the Body of Christ. I don’t mean to dismiss the pain of those who have left the Church solely because of the Scandal, and found the words the Holy Father addressed to them in the Irish letter full of hope and promise–but I’m Catholic, and I’ll die one, for good or ill.
That does not mean, Sig, that I think things should be “smoothed over.” Good grief, if anybody had ever told me that I’d be defending Mahony–Mahony!–the way I have on this thread, I wouldn’t have believed it. It would suit me fine for him to go away. But I’m not just Catholic; I’m an American, and calls for people to be summarily dismissed without a proper investigation are galling. Believe it or not, I’ve felt the same way when people on the political right start to demand that this cabinet official or underling etc. be kicked out over rumors or innuendo or a piece of writing a couple of decades old. If there’s hard evidence that someone’s unfit for a post, produce it; if not, then suck it up and remember that your party’s cabinet appointments often disappoint the other side pretty well, too. (And by all means quit appending “–gate” to every half-baked bit of gossip about someone’s peccadilloes; but that’s another matter). I would urge LA Catholics who have more than rumors at their disposal to make a formal presentation to Rome and ask for an Apostolic Visitation of their archdiocese; that’s not exactly calling for things to be “smoothed over,” I hope, but it also doesn’t toss the American ideal of justice right out the stained-glass window, either.



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thomas tucker

posted March 20, 2010 at 4:10 pm


Michael- your idea of Vatican II may have been coopted by someone or some people with an agenda other than the one that is illustrated in the documents of Vatican II. If you have never read them for yourself, then I suggest you do so. Those documents plainly re-affirm the teachings of the pre-Vatican II Church with regard to Church governance, role of thePope, Church authority and teaching office, etc.



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Lasorda

posted March 20, 2010 at 4:13 pm


Erin,
Again, you are suggesting that firing someone in the United States requires “a proper investigation.” Are you a union organizer? I’m not sure where you got this bizarre idea. As I wrote above, employers in this country have broad discretion over hiring and firing. For example, a restaurant owner can fire a busboy for coming to work late or wearing the wrong colored shoes. For the Pope to “fire” Roger Michael Mahony would not violate any right that the Cardinal holds as an American. That his presence in Los Angeles is impeding the Church’s mission would be quite sufficient.



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thomas tucker

posted March 20, 2010 at 5:21 pm


Lasorda- I think what she said was that firing someone for that would open a potential lawsuit.
I can tell you from my experience that employers frequently are inhibited from firing people without lots and lots of documentation because of the risks involved.



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hlvanburen

posted March 20, 2010 at 5:26 pm


One last point, and I will await a hopeful future post by Mr. Dreher to continue.
Ms. Manning states: “Hlvanburen, I do agree that allegations of abuse require immediate action–this is the policy of my diocese at this point, and I think it’s supposed to be the policy of every diocese in America.”
In reading the Dallas Charter I would tend to agree. However, has that statement been endorsed by the Vatican? If not, I question how binding the Charter’s points are upon American dioceses.



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Erin Manning

posted March 20, 2010 at 5:41 pm


Lasorda, I think I see where we’re speaking past each other.
No, of course merely firing someone requires no investigation; it doesn’t even require that the employee has done anything wrong, in right to work states. An employer can wake up one day and decide he doesn’t like redheads (keeping that to himself) and fire all of them (with a couple of brunettes and a blond thrown in for camouflage), and unless they can prove unlawful discrimination they’re pretty much out of luck.
But the pope isn’t CEO of “Church, Inc.” He doesn’t “hire” bishops. They are appointed, elevated, consecrated. Once a bishop has been ordained as a bishop he is technically the pope’s equal (the pope, of course, is the bishop of Rome, and is “first among equals”).
This is going to be a strained analogy–forgive me for it–but I think it might help clarify the situation. Think of the pope as the owner of a franchise company, and the bishops as individual owners of the franchise businesses. They’ve bought those businesses, agreeing to the rules of operation; they are “owners,” not merely “employees.”
Now, in taking out the franchise, they’ve agreed to all sorts of things, just as a franchise owner agrees to offer a standard set of services or a standard menu, to make sure that his branch of the franchise displays the franchise’s logo and follows its standards of design, to hire people in accordance with the franchise’s hiring rules, and generally to follow certain franchise-wide policies and practices.
Now, if a franchise owner breaks the contract, refusing to display the company logo, perhaps, or refusing to serve key menu items, or hiring inexperienced young teens as managers when this is not company policy, etc., the owner of the whole company has grounds to act against that owner–to, perhaps, sue him for breach of contract, put pressure on him to return to proper practices, or even to buy him out if he refuses to go along with things. But he can’t just show up at the franchise, and say, “Hey, Roger, rumor has it you aren’t following proper practices and that you might be in breach of contract–so I’ll take your keys, now, and you can leave.” This is because the franchise owner is *not* merely an employee of the company, and has certain rights that go along with his position.
Bishops also have certain rights according to Church law that go along with their positions. They can, indeed, forfeit these rights. Some have; I named a couple way up there somewhere. But just as in the franchise owner situation, the pope can’t just show up, say, “Hey, the mainstream media agrees that you’re doing a rotten job, and there are rumors of malfeasance, so clean out your desk and surrender your crozier.”
Does that clear up where I’m coming from on this?



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Erin Manning

posted March 20, 2010 at 5:51 pm


I don’t know the exact answer to your question, Hlvanburen, but this, from today’s letter to the Irish, is encouraging:
“Since the time when the gravity and extent of the problem of child sexual abuse in Catholic institutions first began to be fully grasped, the Church has done an immense amount of work in many parts of the world in order to address and remedy it. While no effort should be spared in improving and updating existing procedures, I am encouraged by the fact that the current safeguarding practices adopted by local Churches are being seen, in some parts of the world, as a model for other institutions to follow.”
Now, I don’t know if by “local Churches” he means America, or the Dallas Charter, but I wouldn’t rule it out, either.



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BobSF

posted March 20, 2010 at 5:57 pm


Erin:
But another thing that strikes me is that Pope Benedict *isn’t* saying what some have said here (e.g., it’s all the fault of Vatican II). He is simply acknowledging that some well-meaning procedures and practices implemented after the Council may have contributed to the present situation. I have to agree–because the practice of considering pedophilia a curable psychological problem certainly was at its peak in the 60s and 70s, and the push by the Church to employ secular experts and send priests for treatment (not only for this, of course, but for anything that was deemed to be a psychological rather than a spiritual issue) did indeed contribute to what later transpired. In no way can this be construed as “Vatican II caused the problem!” as some have said.
Many people make this point as though the 60s and 70s ushered in a new approach that ruined the previous approach. But what was the previous approach? Did the RCC previously turn over priests to the authorities? Where? When? How many? The innovation of the 60s and 70s was to try psychological intervention before reassignment. Flawed as that approach turned out to be in many cases, it was an improvement over just reassignment.
The Church — and society in general — has ALWAYS had the problem of sexual abuse of children. ALWAYS. My mother and her sisters grew up in a tiny town in the Region of Friuli in northeastern Italy in the 20s and 30s. One of the family rules was never leave your sister alone with the priest. Odd how Vatican II could reach back in time and cause that problem…



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BobSF

posted March 20, 2010 at 6:00 pm


“I am encouraged by the fact that the current safeguarding practices adopted by local Churches are being seen, in some parts of the world, as a model for other institutions to follow.”
This is just too much! The RCC finally adopts some of the practices that other groups have been employing for decades and tries to take credit for thinking them up?!?!?
That’s rich. One wonders which parts of the world…



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BobSF

posted March 20, 2010 at 6:03 pm


I find all this talk of impotence on the part of the Vatican to manipulate its “franchises” a bit mysterious in light of the three-decade long purge of liberal theologians, bishops, and cardinals.
I guess that must have been the Holy Spirit at work, reassigning positions, initiating retirements, etc., etc.



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Liam

posted March 20, 2010 at 6:10 pm


The Pope’s letter is underwhelming.



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virgie jaquess

posted March 20, 2010 at 9:11 pm


I left the church because the bishop at the time refused to deal with a sexually abusing priest–simply moved him to another church.
If the pope does not deal with the bishops, then the problem goes on.
This is a dangerous situation because of the 6 priests I worked with, 3 of them were offenders.



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Roland de Chanson

posted March 20, 2010 at 10:06 pm


Liam: The Pope’s letter is underwhelming.
Yes, you’re right, it certainly is.
And the resignations of those three bishops who have offered them, have not yet been accepted by the Pope. I suppose that suitable future candidates are not all that easy to find. As if the past candidates were exemplary.
All in the fullness of time, as they say. Hic et ubique et in saecula saeculorum. Balderdash.
Or in the language of the Church when She was Catholic: Nolite animam continere. (don’t hold your breath).



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public_defender

posted March 20, 2010 at 10:43 pm


Ms. Manning, there isn’t a franchise owner in this country who would be allowed to keep a franchise if he his adult managers were sexually abusing children customer, and, instead of reporting the abuse, transferred the manager to a different store, and then viciously attacked any kid who complained (Read up on the litigation tactics of lawyer’s representing the Catholic Church. Their depositions can best be described as rapes, and that’s what the church wanted.)
And again, if the Catholic Church’s internal management rules don’t allow punishment of bishops and cardinals for what has happened here, there are serious problems with the church’s rules.
Maybe Enron should have thought about putting an immunity clause in its bylaws. Because, under Manning’s theory, if your internal rules say you don’t have to follow the rules everyone else follows, then society should leave you alone because you’re powerless to comply with basic norms of human decency.



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sigaliris

posted March 20, 2010 at 10:48 pm


From an article in the Times Online, “Pope Benedict accused of ignoring abuse allegations against Hullerman”:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article7069826.ece
In Austria, a poll last week indicated that almost 1m Catholics were considering leaving the church because of its handling of the allegations. Well, I’m sure not all of them will leave. But some of them will.
Or this, also from the Times: “Catholic Church faces new crisis–Ireland is running out of priests”:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3441821.ece
One-hundred and sixty priests died last year but only nine were ordained. Figures for nuns were even more dramatic, with the deaths of 228 nuns and only two taking final vows for service in religious life.
Based upon these figures The Irish Catholic newspaper predicts that the number of priests will drop from the current 4,752 to about 1,500 by 2028.
The decline in vocations is attributed to the loss of the Church’s authority after a string of sex-abuse scandals.
Regular church attendance, which was at 90 per cent at the start of the 1990s, has suffered a collapse, mitigated partially in recent years by the mass influx of Polish workers.
Whatever it is that the Pope is trying to do, I don’t think it’s working.



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Roland de Chanson

posted March 20, 2010 at 11:50 pm


Erin: This is going to be a strained analogy–forgive me for it–but I think it might help clarify the situation. Think of the pope as the owner of a franchise company…
Erin, really, these ineffectual apologies for the delicts of the papacy and episcopacy are embarrassing. Rod’s argument that Ratzinger is marginally more astute than Wojty?a is correct; the problem is however not a marginal one. It is fundamental.
If the RCC were a franchise, I’d buy a parish (you think simony is a thing of the past?) and give the pew puppies a typical post-V2 novus ordo luncheon and pep talk and reap the harvest of the three collections, of which I will skim my take and forward the rest on to my boss whose vices I and my colleagues know well and who keep mine secret invicem. And if I keep my mouth shut and some day get caught out I know I will get a new franchise, perhaps one of the original sites in Franchiseville, Italy.
Ratzinger, for whom I used to have great admiration, indeed, I thought he might reverse the abuses of Wojty?a’s reign, has proved himself a man of words not deeds. Has he even offered one traditional mass since Summorum Pontificum? He is still the V2 modernist Necktie Joe Ratzinger. Laudetur Cranmer victor.
Owner of a franhcise? Tu es Petrus et in hac petra aedificabo francisiam meam. Embarrassing.



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Roland de Chanson

posted March 21, 2010 at 12:01 am


I give up.
Waldman and his adverts and censorship be damned.
Back to once a week lurking.



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Hector

posted March 21, 2010 at 12:04 am


For the record, Ireland is the only country in the developed world where the Anglican church is growing, probably as a result of disaffected former RCs leaving the church over the sex abuse crisis. I don’t blame them. I know a number of Catholics (from America, from Poland, and from Canada) who left their church largely over this issue.
Erin, you’re a smart and thoughtful commenter. I’m disappointed that you’re talking like a lawyer. ‘First among equals’ is what the Orthodox or Anglicans think about the papacy, but I don’t think it’s a fair description of the RC view, which (it seems to me) holds that the difference between the Bishop of Rome and other bishops is a difference of kind, not of degree. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Either the Pope is equal to other bishops or he is their superior (and if he’s their equal, then there goes the idea of Roman primacy).
A very quick look at history tells us that Popes have deposed bishops for all kinds of things, most of them far less morally heinous than concealing and tolerating child abuse. People have been excommunicated, after all, on very thin grounds indeed. I fail to see why if a Bishop can be excommunicated for, say, holding that Jesus Christ had one will instead of two, he can’t be excommunicated for allowing pedophile priests to continue abusing children.
Let me be clear; I don’t think that either hierarchical governance, or priestly celibacy, is the problem per se. While I feel that priestly celibacy should be optional, I have the highest respect for those that are called to it. My priest back home is a celibate Anglican clergyman, and he’s the reason, in large part, that I am a Christian today. The Roman Catholic church could, if it chose, address the problem of child sexual abuse without changing a whit of its doctrines. Which makes me sad, and concerned, that they haven’t yet done so.
And I should say that I find the implicit comparison between child sexual abuse and contraception, or between child sexual abuse and hiring teenage managers, to be tasteless at best and revolting at worst. We aren’t talking about a minor transgression here, and we aren’t talking about something like contraception that many people don’t think is a sin at all. We are talking about something that is almost universally regarded as one of the most evil acts that an adult man can commit. It shouldn’t be trivialised and it shouldn’t be diluted by comparing it with minor or dubious transgressions.



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Rod Dreher

posted March 21, 2010 at 12:21 am


Chill, Roland, no actual human person is holding your comment. It’s the idiotic CAPTCHA software. It sometimes holds my stuff too, for no apparent reason. No need to practice radio silence; just drop me a note at rdreher (at) templeton.org, and I’ll free up your commentary if it gets hung up.
Do you remember when Beliefnet abandoned CAPTCHA as an experiment? It was a nightmare. The spambots are relentless. I hate CAPTCHA as much as you, but the alternative is much worse.
BTW, Steve Waldman sold Beliefnet to News Corp a couple of years ago, and now no longer even works for Bnet.



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Oda

posted March 21, 2010 at 11:08 am


There’s nothing wrong with having spam filtering software. In fact it’s essential.
That said, this particular system is a nightmare. Let Beliefnet take a gander over at Atlantic Monthly, at the whole Blogspot group, any number of other sites. I could go on and on. You think Atlantic doesn’t have to contend with spambots? But their filtering software (1) makes sense, (2) doesn’t eat your comment at random, AND (3) permits editing after you post.
Beliefnet is a big, for-profit enterprise. They can afford decent software. I’m also tempted to decamp, not just because the stupid CAPTCHA is third-rate software, but because window ads are constantly popping up in my face, and now Mozilla wants to bar me from the site because it’s so buggy.
Great blog, horrible forum.



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Oda

posted March 21, 2010 at 12:44 pm


Not to go on and on here, except I kind of am, Firefox/Mozilla barred me from the site yesterday, and just now, again, on the grounds that there was some kind of buggy cross-post, whatever that is, and when I disabled this protection, now what happens is that an ad for some smelly stuff that’s supposed to make my house smell better comes up, in lieu of the blog, and it doesn’t seem to ever resolve into the blog, nor is there any obvious way to turn it off. Just endless make-believe wafts of air beside bottles of smelly stuff.
So. Beliefnet is actively trying to keep commenters from accessing their site. Ever. Perhaps “rolling over” one of the smelly-stuff ads will cause me to have to read the whole thing and then I can finally get to beliefnet…..or maybe that doesn’t work either…..or perhaps I’ll think of some real work I should be doing and go to that. Whatever comes first.
I’m only here right now this minute because I’m using an alternate browser. Which will undoubtedly flash some dire warning in my face any minute now.
Greedy greedy.



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Liam

posted March 21, 2010 at 1:13 pm


Blog Fail.
I too am having this problem. Rod’s blog is becoming unreadable due to the ads that pop up and do not allow you do to anything but go elsewhere. Beliefnet’s management of its ads is baffling and hostile.



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Erin Manning

posted March 21, 2010 at 1:40 pm


Roland, I think too highly of you to think you really misunderstood my point to Lasorda, which was this: those of you who have visions of Pope Benedict XVI striding into the offices of various bishops around the world and snarling, a la Donald Trump, “You’re fired!” are misunderstanding some key things about the papacy and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
I even apologized for the strained nature of the analogy; Lasorda and I had somehow drifted into making comparisons to employment law, and I was simply saying that no, it’s not like a situation where an employer can summarily dismiss a subordinate for no reason at all, let alone with an investigation etc.; it’s more like a franchise situation where the owner of the whole has to have grounds (something like breach of contract) to demand the removal of the contract owner.
I agree that if a franchise owner can be proved to have been illegally moving sexual predators from franchise to franchise as part of a cover up, he should get his franchise license revoked, just as a bishop who can be proved to have done the same should be forced to resign. But the key words here are Can.Be.Proved! If a particular bishop knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that a priest was a risk to children, AND he knew he should report matters to police, AND he criminally covered up the guy’s record and kept moving him to other parishes, AND he failed to follow canon law procedures in the process, AND he did all of this with criminal intent or at least in a way that makes him clearly a moral criminal, AND there is proof of these claims, then yes, that bishop should be forced to resign. But I keep getting frustrated by the people who say that they know all of this about Bishop X or Bishop Z, because reports are…allegations are…rumors are…etc.
So, addressing Hector now, the problem with excommunication is that it’s a statement that someone has deliberately put himself outside the Church. I think a lot of the bishops who moved pedophile priests were guilty, mainly, of one thing: of doing what everybody else was doing under the mistaken belief that this was the best way to deal with the problem. Where would they get such a stupid idea? Partly from half-baked psychology notions they picked up when it was trendy for seminaries to spend more time on pop psychology than theology or doctrine, partly from the old idea that if a priest was having an illicit relationship with an adult the best thing to do was physically remove him from close contact with his illicit lover (which might have worked, a) so long as we’re talking about adult consensual stuff and b) back when it could be a day’s journey by horse to go visit the old lover, which would make it practically impossible for most priests), partly from a lot of misunderstood notions about pedophilia that were quite prevalent in society (plenty of families had an “uncle” whom children were never left alone with, etc., and plenty of people thought the way to deal with such things was to keep the victim away from the perpetrator and then never ever ever talk about what had happened again), partly, I’m sure, from pridefulness and various bad motives as well. The bishops in America were, to me, not so much criminal as amazingly ignorant and stupid about it all–except for about 12 or so bishops whom I suspect of having had/having criminal intent–but of those, most are either deceased or no longer active bishops.
Now, I certainly understand the desire to punish bishops who were amazingly stupid and ignorant about it all. I’d actually like to hear a couple of them say that in so many words: “Hey, I was amazingly stupid and ignorant about the problem of pedophilia. I believed the experts who told me the condition was treatable. I believed this because I wanted to believe it. I also believed that Father Blank would do better in a larger, busier parish (or a smaller, more close-knit one, etc.). I learned in seminary that our God is the God of Second Chances, and I thought I owed it to Father to give him a second chance, too. But I was amazingly stupid and ignorant about pedophilia, and I’m sorry that my patently dumb and idiotic decisions caused such great harm to the Church, especially here in this diocese.” I’d personally find that very refreshing to hear.



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public_defender

posted March 21, 2010 at 3:05 pm


The software can be annoying, but we all have a remedy–not posting. As to the ads, well, I admit I’m a freeloader. I use Firefox with the Adblock Plus add-on (both free), and I don’t see any ads on this site.
But back to the topic. I think part of the reason we are talking past each other is a different view of the Catholic Hierarchy. Many of us, especially non-Catholics, see them as human beings running a human-made institution who are subject to the usual list of human deficiencies. Pope Benedict is as likely to make a boneheaded hiring or promotion decision as anyone. The College of Cardinals is as likely to make a boneheaded choice of leadership as any board of directors.
Part of the problem as we see it (and I use that “we” very loosely), is the lack of effective checks and balances within the church. In any organization, if those in power can’t lose power, they tend to abuse power. The inability (or extreme difficulty) in punishing anyone in the higher levels of Catholic decision-making is one of the major causes for the church’s inability to deal with this, and one of the main reason Catholic children continued to be raped.
Generally, conservative Catholics put a high value on the respect and position of the Catholic hierarchy, including the means of selection. For Manning and others who agree with them, putting in real checks hurts the institution and denies what they see as the divine origin of the RCC. Those of us on the outside, and many (most?) Catholics in democratic societies don’t place that much (if any) importance on maintaining the divine authority of church leadership. So we see a very different set of trade-offs.
But the reality, as Dreher has pointed out many times, is that the inability to deal with (and sometimes the enabling of) the sexual predation of children within the church is a source of rot within the organization. Dreher thinks it won’t be a fatal rot, but it is certainly a very damaging rot.
Those who love the church, believe in its divine origin, and who see the problem that Dreher may reject the solutions proposed by us outsiders. But they must then come up with their own solutions that deal with the problem and fit their ideology.
Why should you care what we critics think? Well, for example, Dreher argues that same sex marriage coupled with anti-discrimination laws will hurt traditional Catholicism. He is trying to persuade us liberals that that would be a bad thing. But if traditional Catholicism means that we must ignore it when top leaders enable child rape and suffer no consequences, then, well, the harm of hurting that hierarchy doesn’t seem like a harm at all.
Also, the Catholic bishops often speak out on a variety of issues (although the American hierarchy is now basically a PR wing of the Republican National Committee, but that’s another thread). This scandal, and the refusal to hold anyone in power accountable, greatly, greatly diminishes the bishops’ credibility on pretty much everything.



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cecelia

posted March 21, 2010 at 3:19 pm


Erin – there are instances where it has been demonstrated – and in some cases demonstrated in legal proceedings such as the civil suits against dioceses – that they knowingly shuffled priests around – and that bishops were complicit in these cover ups. In a case in Seattle – the bishop of that diocese was not told by the sending diocese that the priest had many allegations of sexual abuse from several parishes. There is real Christian charity for you – dumping your pedophile priests on another diocese. Those bishops have not been removed.
I do understand your point – the Pope can’t just fire people. But the Pope can put considerable pressure on the American Church to get its house in order. And apparently has. More to the point – why does the American Church refuse to do so despite the continuing lawsuits, continuing howl’s of protest from the laity and pressure form the Vatican? Why does the Bishop in Connecticut go to court to protect himself from sharing records on allegations of abuse after the Pope has said that the Church will cooperate with civil investigations? There are institutional structures and attitudes which are still preventing the necessary further reforms. And of course – there is always the option of putting pressure on Bishops to resign for the sake of the Church.
As for your comments on pop psychology etc in the seminaries – in the 70’s I sat on a diocesan committee wherein we listened to experts – some of whom were priests who were licensed clinical psychologists – tell us that pedophilia was not curable and that any pedophile would – given opportunity – repeat. This was widely known as long ago as the 70’s – yet the transfers continued (although – not in this diocese which got its act together at that time and therefore largely escaped the scandal). Your points on papal authority and how it works in the Church are well made but they do not fully explain the failure here in the US to move the reforms up to the higher levels of the Church.
I don’t think amazingly stupid covers what happened here. Even a cursory reading of some of the proven accounts of abuse fills me with a sense of horror and disgust. The failure to recognize and respond appropriately to the horror of what was done to children – cases of repeated systematic sexual abuse – is not explained by “stupidity”.



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hlvanburen

posted March 21, 2010 at 3:21 pm


Ms. Manning, I think I understand your point about the behavior of the Bishops with regards to moving abusive priests around. I do have a question for you on this, and again it continues our recent tradition of poor analogies. :-)
If it was discovered that the public schools in your community had engaged in similar behavior with regards to abusive teachers, and the leadership that endorsed this behavior was still in positions of power (building and district administration, board of directors, etc.), would you accept a “solution” offered by the district that left these clearly negligent leaders in power? Or would you be at the school board meeting demanding that those responsible for protecting abusive teachers, even if the instances of abuse occurred 10-15 years ago or longer, were dismissed immediately by the school district?
As a number of earlier posts on this thread discussed, the issue of the child abuse crisis in education is often brought up, or more like thrown in the face, to those of us who are pushing for accountability by the Church. I guess I am turning it around and asking you (and Mr. Nadal, if he is still following this thread) if you would be as accepting of a similar response from your school district as you are of the ones offered by the USCCB and the Vatican regarding the crisis in the Church.



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thomas tucker

posted March 21, 2010 at 4:02 pm


hlvb- that is an excellent question. And to make it even more so, let’s say that it was your kid who was abused by the teacher, and the school board had known about other instances where the teacher had done so at other schools and simply moved the teacher around. btw, one thing that I have always wondered about this whole sorry mess is- why did any parent who found out that their child was being abused go and complain to a pastor or a bishop? Why didn’t they immediately call the police?



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Oda

posted March 21, 2010 at 4:18 pm


As a number of earlier posts on this thread discussed, the issue of the child abuse crisis in education is often brought up, or more like thrown in the face, to those of us who are pushing for accountability by the Church. I guess I am turning it around and asking you (and Mr. Nadal, if he is still following this thread) if you would be as accepting of a similar response from your school district as you are of the ones offered by the USCCB and the Vatican regarding the crisis in the Church.
I think this is an interesting point.
I think the traditional Catholic answer, implied if not stated in comments above, is the God Himself is in some way responsible for the appointment of the bishops, so we human beings can’t just sail in there and fire them when they conspire with predators. (At least according to Erin, there’s almost nothing anyone, including the Pope, can legitimately do about a bishop who, if he is not in fact a unindicted felon, is at least giving great scandal to the faithful by his behavior. The bishop-as-dictator-for-life view.)
But this pushes the argument back a step, and a very dangerous backstep it is, too, because then you’re left contending that God Himself appointed a man like Bernard Law to a bishopric, and that God approves of (or at least allows) such behavior. (Since God knows everything, He surely knew ahead of time how Cdl Law was going to behave.) The Good Shepherd Himself, according to this view, let the wolf into the sheepfold and forbade the sheep to do anything at all about it.
The Church cannot have it both ways. Either a priest or a bishop is above criticism and/or removal simply because he is a priest or a bishop (or, in Erin’s view, you have to assemble far more evidence against him than would bring a conviction for murder in a civil court, which probably can never be done), OR, these men are fallible human beings (“these men are not perfect, no one ever said they were, the Church itself is not compromised by the sins of its officers” and so forth).
I too would like to have the cake and eat it – who wouldn’t? But the fact is that the attempt to do that in this situation is tearing the entire institution to shreds. If you believe that the Holy Spirit protects the RCC, do you also believe that He will do so while everyone in sight sits on his butt and does nothing? That would be an extraordinary belief, and one for which I see no proof whatever.



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Cecelia

posted March 21, 2010 at 5:30 pm


Thomas Tucker – as to why they did not just go to the police- a case in the south where a priest was abusing kids. The parents started going to the local police chief with their complaints. The police chief talked to the priest (who of course denied). He wrote a letter to the head of the order the priests was a member of. He wrote to the diocese.
Nothing was done – but he also did nothing further. In the account I read – which included copies of his letters and the responses he got – he claimed he went no further with it because he was reluctant to start a scandal against a religious figure ( he was not Catholic but Protestant) and he also knew how difficult it was to get evidence and successfully prosecute. If this is the response parents get – it is no wonder they didn’t go to the police. I suspect too that few parents want to put themselves or their children thru a public investigation and trial. “Blame the victim” is not as bad today as it was in the past but it still occurs and there continues to be a stigma associated with being a victim of abuse.
In general – outside the issues with the Church – children are removed routinely by the state from homes when allegations of sexual abuse occur but no attempt is made to investigate and prosecute the abuser. I have been told by people in the state child protective agencies that this happens because 1) there are so many cases 2) convictions are rare 3) when no conviction occurs the child must be returned and the family cannot be coerced into therapy – if there is no prosecution they can at least get the family into therapy.
Gerald Nadal is correct to point out that this is a terrible problem throughout our society and while the Church does not get to use this as an excuse – we do need to be more insistent on protection of children in all our institutions.
I’d add too that if we insist it is the organizational structure and rules of the RCC that prohibit dismissals and reform – then we are lending weight to those who believe it is necessary to radically revise said organization.



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Cecelia

posted March 21, 2010 at 5:46 pm


This info is available from Accountability – an organization which has been involved in tracking etc the scandal.
A survey was conducted by Rod’s old newspaper on the number of Bishops who were involved in cover ups/reassignment. 2/3’s of the then sitting Bishops were identified. Of the 109 bishops identified in the Dallas Morning News survey,
only 39 bishops (36%) are still managing the same diocese. Of the others:
11 have resigned,41 have retired,15 were promoted, and 3 died in office. So some 54 bishops involved in the scandal are still working in the Church.
over a twenty five year period – some 3,000 civil lawsuits were filed and Over $3 billion in awards and settlements have been made comprising:
$750 million in settlements 1950-2002 (partly overlaps next item)
$2 billion in large settlements and awards 1984-2008 with 3,547 survivors
$500 million in smaller settlements 2003-2008
250 priests out of the total number of 172,000 of priests active during the time period were laicized by the Church due to credible allegations of abuse. Only 37 criminal prosecutions occurred.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted March 22, 2010 at 12:51 am


Criminal prosecutions would have been much better than financial settlements. Financial settlements are essentially paid for by innocent parishioners, and bleed money out of legitimate programs people rely on the church for.
It may be true, theologically, and as matter’s of church governance, which in this nation are no business of the courts, that the bishops cannot be fired. However, by the same token, in this country any bishop who is an accomplice after the fact, or before the fact to later crimes, can be arrested and imprisoned. It is then the church’s decision whether they remain a bishop, in prison, or are removed from office due to the scandal.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted March 22, 2010 at 1:55 am


Its taken a while to get through all this, but in response to Gerard, Roland, Erin, and Hector (three Roman Catholics and an Anglican), the hierarchy of the church is indeed a unique feature of the crime. Hierarchy and obedience to ministerial authority is not unique to Rome. I know of many Protestant denominations which demand and/or ecstatically offer adulation and obedience to the pastor, and it has had some evil effects there too — not excluding sexual molestation of children and adults, homosexual and heterosexual. Obedience, a false fetish about respect for the church as an institution, raw exercise of power, and lack of accountability in office, all played a major role.
Runaways on the street snatched up by pimps and turned into prostitutes are created by somewhat different institutional patterns — including abuse within the family, corrupt police, and keeping victims physically isolated. But building an institution upon the demand for obedience to a hierarchy literally believed to speak for God and to have the imprimatur of Jesus Christ himself… when those are the people raping you, swearing you to secrecy, moving the perpetrator away, to new opportunities for repeat crime? That is a very special evil. It is the very nature of such a church which creates the opportunity and makes it so easy to cover up the crime.
Rod, the Roman church may have been of some importance to the politics of Europe in the middle ages — and the direct result was the Borgias, among others — but I don’t see any reason to think that the moral integrity of either Europe or America will suffer in the slightest if it were to disappear. That particular church was never a significant foundation for American institutions in the first place, any more than Islam was. Practitioners of both have been welcome here for generations. All those devout church-going Catholics are not going to disappear. In fact, because they are not, it is quite unlikely that their denomination will disappear. But if it did, they would form new churches with a Catholic theology of some sort, probably even with bishops, or they would join the more conservative Anglican churches, which would perform a similar function in American communities, or they would follow you into the Orthodox church…



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Oda

posted March 22, 2010 at 9:57 am


Very interesting comments, Siarlys.
The defection of Roman Catholics from that denomination, or even the collapse of the denomination itself, is of little ultimate concern unless you believe that you must be a Roman Catholic to be saved, which not even the Church itself teaches any longer.
Many Catholics have lost their faith in the Catholic Church as a result of the Scandal, and it is still happening. Some of them have lost faith in institutional Christianity as a whole, some of them in Christianity itself, some of them in God. All of this matters, ultimately, only if you believe that you must be (a)a member of some church or other, or (b) at least a Christians, or (c) a theist, to successfully complete this earthly journey and make your way back to God.
People who do believe these things should be, but some of them apparently are not, even more disturbed than I am about such spectacles as Roger Mahony. Cardinal Mahony has been, by his notorious behavior, the cause of many, many people “losing their faith” in some or all of the propositions listed above. That he has not been removed, and, according to Erin, cannot be removed, should be, I think, a cause of far more grief to her than to me. I am puzzled by the “oh well, we can’t get rid of such men so we should just live with it” attitude, when, according to those assumptions, immortal souls are being lost….



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Roland de Chanson

posted March 22, 2010 at 11:06 am


Erin: Roland, I think too highly of you to think you really misunderstood my point to Lasorda, which was this: those of you who have visions of Pope Benedict XVI striding into the offices of various bishops around the world and snarling, a la Donald Trump, “You’re fired!” are misunderstanding some key things about the papacy and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
And I of you, Erin. That is why I thought the analogy embarrassing. As Linda above mentioned, we should be held to a higher standard. In fact, there is no apt analogy for the Church.
I don’t think the pope has to stride anywhere. He has merely to summon a Mahony. He has merely to suggest resignation and permanent retreat. A priest takes vows of chastity and obedience. He owes obedience to the Vicar of Christ.
Benedict has prophesied a schism in the Church, a “smaller” Church. While trying to heal schisms with the FSSPX, the TAC, the Orthodox, he is desperate to avoid other schisms, the Medugorje flakes, the Pelosi hypocrites, the priestess / sodomite “marriage” / married priest, etc. ad nauseam agendists. These latent smaller schisms will grow and eventually sunder the Church yet again. Benedict doesn’t want it to happen on his watch.
But has to choose, he has to act. If you sit on the fence too long, you wind up with a permanent picket up your podex.
I was forced to attend a service at a novus ordo temple yesterday out of respect for a family member. After listening to the tremolo of the largynx-less cantress warbling some “hymns”, the new age “music”, the erroneous and heretical translation of the Creed, the silly ceremonial dismissal of some poor “catechumens”, the liturgical ladies handling the “cup”, the altar girls flanking the presbyter while the one androgynous altar boy is off to the side (wonder why there are no vocations?), the quasi-Buddhist prayer flags fluttering their banal messages, the silly personal anecdotes of the presybyter from which he tried to concoct some sort of moral lesson, I left with one thought. If there were still a valid Sacrament of Penance, I would confess having assisted at this pagan and masonic mockery of the Mass.
Let the schism come. Let Benedict lead it.



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Roland de Chanson

posted March 22, 2010 at 11:13 am


Oda: The defection of Roman Catholics from that denomination, or even the collapse of the denomination itself, is of little ultimate concern unless you believe that you must be a Roman Catholic to be saved, which not even the Church itself teaches any longer.
Not true. I am not going to argue the history of this in this thread. But suffice it to say the Church has not abrogated this doctrine. It has put a treacly hermeneutical icing on the bitter pill, however.
The recent establishment of ordinariates at the request of Traditional Anglicans demonstrates clearly that the Church intends the goal of “oecumenism” to be “conversion.”



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted March 22, 2010 at 11:57 am


The goal of every faith and denomination is conversion, because each genuinely believes that the doctrine it espouses is true. But it is never going to happen. The more narrowly defined and strictly enforced the doctrine, the larger a portion of humanity will leave or be forced out or declare a schism. The more inclusive the institution becomes, the more laxly enforce doctrine must be. If the wishes of the most militant Catholics were fulfilled, Benedict would become a kind of Calvin, bestowing salvation on a predestined elite, while consigning the majority of humanity to a hypothetical hell. (Whether hell is hypothetical in God’s eyes, is not my point — the consignment in Benedict’s edicts, like Calvin’s, would be hypothetical).
Primacy over secular authorities and access to physical means of compulsion may put off the day of reckoning, even for centuries, but cannot defer it indefinitely. That there were three or four Christian churches by 1054, that there are many more today, was inevitable. All Christian beliefs as to what is true simply can’t fit in one church. It is better that way. I prefer that Roman Catholics are free to be Roman Catholics, and WELS Lutherans are free to be WELS Lutherans, and Mennonites are free to be Mennonites, than to sit down and try to concoct a lowest common denominator which all can agree on, and which by the time it is written would be so bland as to mean nothing at all.



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GrantL

posted March 22, 2010 at 4:00 pm


ERin Manning;
Am I a calling for the RC to stop being the RC? Hmmm. INteresting way to put it. I suppose you are right and yes, that is probably wishful thinking.
But at the same time its obvious now that the Roman Catholic Church is broken. Whatever “moral authority” it claims to have has long since been lost, falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, as they said in Rome.
I mean, yes it might well be wishful thinking, but part of the problem, as I see it, is that the Church is clinging to processes and institutional organization that is, literally, the last living scrap of the ancient Roman Empire. Well, times have moved on, yes? The Church is clinging to a way of doing things in favor of doing the right and moral and ethical thing. Maintaining its status quo appears more important that justice. The Vatican clearly regards the flock as accountable to Rome, not Rome being accountable to its flock. The church has it completely backward and it exemplifies a serious conflict within western culture – an emphasis on obedience to authority that comes from Christianity, particularly the Roman Catholic Church (from which all others spring) and an emphasis on freedom which comes from our Greek (largely Athenian) roots in democracy etc.
Someone needs to ask the question, why what warrant should a Catholic obey the dictates of a pope or bishop? Because tradition says so? Because the pope or bishop says so? Despite the religious nature of the church, these are political questions aren’t they? And we long long ago decided that absolute rulers are not illegitimate. The idea that only an authoritarian church has an “insight” into the religion is fairly preposterous. And don’t knock soup kitchens. I am no believer, but I also recognize the good work some churches do, and lay run church feeding the poor is doing a whole lot more good than bishops turning their church into a haven for sexual predators.
Would a “lay run” church destroy the Vatican? I don’t think so, no more than voting for a President or Prime Minister destroys a democracy. At the end of the day our elected leaders are accountable to us. If bishops or pope’s were selected by members of the church, then the staggering arrogance of the Vatican that assumes its rules and decision should be binding on everyone, cannot be questions and supersede the rule of law. There is just so something deeply deeply wrong with how the Vatican approaches questions of morality like this and it is something in need of great change.
I just do not see how the Vatican will ever restore itself and do the kind of things it might be able to do without recognizing that it is dire and desperate need for whole sale reform. And that isn’t going to happen until the church recognizes that just because it has always done a thing in certain way doesn’t make it right. This pope, who appears often to take the Reformation as a personal insult, is not likely to go down that kind of road, I realize.
Thomas Tucker, I am sure you can understand why the “sanctity” of the confessional is far less of a concern than the suffering of children at the hands of sexual predators in vestments, yes? To be blunt, the rituals of a religion, while rightly protected in a secular, democratic society, must play second fiddle to the suffering of children. Or to put another way, who cares if someone does or not does confess these things to a priest to receive forgiveness? This is part of the entire problem here. The church puts its notions of absolution above the law, above the suffering of children and leads, in part, to the sheltering of criminals from the justice system.
What matters the most here? Putting an end to the long standing cover ups of sexual crimes, or ensuring the church doesn’t have to change no matter what?



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Oda

posted March 22, 2010 at 7:26 pm


Very wise post, GrantL.



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GrantL

posted March 22, 2010 at 8:11 pm


Thanks Oda.
that post is typo city though. Among them, this “And we long long ago decided that absolute rulers are not illegitimate” should have read “And we long ago decided that absolute rulers are illegitimate.”
D’oh!



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Oda

posted March 22, 2010 at 8:35 pm


Software which does not permit you to edit afterwards produces error.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted March 22, 2010 at 11:24 pm


I don’t often stick up for the Roman Catholic Church, but Grant is missing the point to the sanctity of the confessional. It exists for the same reason as the attorney-client privilege, and the doctor-patient privilege, not to mention that badly and unfortunately eroded legal tradition, the marital privilege. It is actually part of a larger privilege, clergy-penitent, which applies to Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and the Universal Life Church. It’s purpose is not unlike the increasing provision in law that if a doctor apologizes for an error, that apology is inadmissible as evidence against her or him in a malpractice suit. I would even favor a provision in the rules of evidence that if a person who has committed a crime offers an apology to the victim, that apology is inadmissible as evidence to convict them. There is generally plenty of other evidence available.
There are human relationships the law respects to the extent that what passes between two people within those relations is not to be mentioned outside of that relationship. The point of confession is to confess ALL the penitent has on their soul. If the confession could be used in court, or to swear out an arrest warrant, then naturally the matter will simply not be mentioned in confession. Then the police will still be no wiser.
You would, perhaps, understand that a wife is not required to testify against her husband, or a husband against his wife — not, as Justice Frankfurter would have it, merely because the wife was considered to be legally “covered” by her husband, to be an extension of his legal person, but because, as Justice Warren passionately argued, because even law enforcement must yield to the sanctity of marriage. That, of course, does not apply if the wife herself, or their children, is the victim of the crime.
There may be some room for common sense limitations of the confessional privilege. Certainly prevention of future crimes is a legitimate concern — as it is in the attorney client privilege. The attorney may not knowingly aid and abet the commission of a further crime, and is bound to report this to the court if it poses a conflict with the attorney’s duty to their client. But we shouldn’t throw the privilege out in our zeal to legitimately deter a crime.



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GrantL

posted March 25, 2010 at 8:04 pm


Siarlys Jenkins wrote: “I don’t often stick up for the Roman Catholic Church, but Grant is missing the point to the sanctity of the confessional. It exists for the same reason as the attorney-client privilege, and the doctor-patient privilege”
Actually no it doesn’t. The attorney-client privilege is there so that a client can disclose all relevant facts to the attorney can properly defend him or her, and so that the client cannot be convicted on the basis of what he or she tells his lawyer. Its PART of the criminal justice system.
The confessional is not part of the criminal justice system. Is not part of the medical system. It is part of a religious belief system. It’s purpose is not to facilitate the fair rendering of justice or to protect a person’s health. It is an institution so that someone can receive forgiveness (as defined by the theology).
When someone says “you cannot make a priest testify about what they heard in confession because then people will stop coming to confession,” the concern is that those people won’t receive absolution for their sins. And in the world of Catholic theology that is often more important that bringing a criminal to justice.
Look, there are precious few reasons for the state to interfere with freedom of religion. Like freedom of speech, the rule of thumb is that its a freedom that can only be interfered with on very very exceptional grounds. I would submit that the abuse of criminal qualifies and that seeing the abuser brought to justice is vastly more important that ensuring future criminals will confess their sins in a confessional booth. When it comes to the abuse of children, society at large is concerned with justice, not the state of the criminal’s “soul.”



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted March 25, 2010 at 11:51 pm


You’re still missing the point Grant. I didn’t say that the clergy-penitent privilege is part of the criminal justice system. I said that EACH of the privileges I mentioned has similar reasons within its own context (legal, medical, spiritual, family) for having been adopted.
Confidentiality of communications with a doctor, a lawyer, with clergy, between spouses, are not MORE IMPORTANT THAN criminal justice, they EACH have their own reason and purpose which are not automatically over-ridden by the demand for criminal justice. Take away testimony as to what a priest or anyone else confessed to… there remains the testimony of victims, other witnesses who observed suspicious behavior, in today’s more vigilant atmosphere, there may well be physical evidence. So, use all of them to convict the guilty. The privilege of the confessional booth is not a trump card which dissolves all other evidence.
I acknowledge that you recognize the general importance of freedom of religion, but I find the attack on confessional privilege to be dangerous and entirely unnecessary. It misses the point about why many such privileges exist, and have been sanctified (in the civil sense) by long practice, precedent, tradition, and expectation.



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Your Name

posted April 5, 2010 at 11:27 am


I was forced to attend a service at a novus ordo temple yesterday out of respect for a family member. After listening to the tremolo of the largynx-less cantress warbling some “hymns”, the new age “music”, the erroneous and heretical translation of the Creed, the silly ceremonial dismissal of some poor “catechumens”, the liturgical ladies handling the “cup”, the altar girls flanking the presbyter while the one androgynous altar boy is off to the side (wonder why there are no vocations?), the quasi-Buddhist prayer flags fluttering their banal messages, the silly personal anecdotes of the presybyter from which he tried to concoct some sort of moral lesson, I left with one thought. If there were still a valid Sacrament of Penance, I would confess having assisted at this pagan and masonic mockery of the Mass.
Let the schism come. Let Benedict lead it.
But the Church has the problem – not you?



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