Beliefnet
Rod Dreher

The plot thickens:

ROME (AP) — Spanish media are quoting a retired Vatican cardinal as saying the late Pope John Paul II backed his letter congratulating a French bishop for risking jail for shielding a priest convicted of raping minors.Web sites of La Verdad and other Spanish newspapers reported Saturday that Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, 80, told an audience at a Catholic university in Murcia, Spain, on Friday that he consulted with John Paul and showed him the letter. He claimed the pontiff authorized him to send the letter to bishops worldwide.La Verdad said the audience at Universidad Catolica de Murcia applauded the cardinal’s remarks.

If Castrillon Hoyos is telling the truth, then John Paul personally approved sending this letter in direct violation of the instruction Card. Ratzinger’s CDF had sent down months earlier, urging bishops in countries where the law obliges them to report knowledge of sexual crimes against children to civil authorities, to follow the law. If Castrillon Hoyos is being truthful, it would suggest that, as far as the pontiff was concerned, the Ratzinger directive was window dressing.By the way, one should not over-interpret that 2001 CDF instruction. As Msgr. Charles Scicluna of the CDF characterizes it today:

Msgr. Scicluna also emphasized that the Vatican’s insistence on secrecy in the investigation of these cases by church authorities does not mean bishops or others are exempt from reporting these crimes to civil authorities.”In some English-speaking countries, but also in France, if bishops become aware of crimes committed by their priests outside the sacramental seal of confession, they are obliged to report them to the judicial authorities. This is an onerous duty because the bishops are forced to make a gesture comparable to that of a father denouncing his own son. Nonetheless, our guidance in these cases is to respect the law,” he said.In countries where there is no legal obligation to report sex abuse accusations, Msgr. Scicluna said, “we do not force bishops to denounce their own priests, but encourage them to contact the victims and invite them to denounce the priests by whom they have been abused.”

Anyway, what Card. Castrillon Hoyos said in Spain is very big news. It’s the first time to my knowledge that someone who was in the curial inner circle under John Paul II has publicly said that the late pontiff encouraged a policy of covering up for clerical sex abuse. That’s a bombshell.By the way, do note how the laity who heard Castrillon Hoyos reacted to his admission: they applauded. People who believe the Church scandal is simply a matter of an out-of-touch clerical leadership squared off against a laity that wants to know the truth, and wants true reform, should consider this. It’s not that simple, at all. If you wonder why some victims of abuse waited years to come out about what was done to them, you have part of your answer right there. Many laymen were quite willing to collaborate with evil to keep a truth they found intolerable to contemplate buried. Some still are. It’s human nature. You can see it every day, if you look. UPDATE: John Allen of NCR adds some context:

That congregation was led by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the man who is now the pope, and who is credited with taking a more aggressive approach to sex abuse cases. In effect, the thrust of the Vatican statement was to suggest that Castrillón’s letter illustrated the problems that Ratzinger faced in kick-starting the Vatican into action.On Friday, however, during at a conference at a Catholic university in Murcia, Spain, the 81-year-old Castrillón insisted that he had shown the letter in advance to John Paul II, and that the late pope had authorized him not only to send it but to eventually post it on the internet.Castrillón said that the issue at stake in his letter was protection of the seal of the confessional. The cardinal said he was applauding Pican for maintaining the sanctity of the sacrament, and cited canon 983 of the Code of Canon Law, concerning the confessional. Some analysts have questioned whether the sanctity of the confessional directly applies in this case, since Pican said in 2001 that he had discussed the case with the victims and with another priest. French law recognizes the seal of the confessional as part of a protected category of “professional secrets,” but makes an exception for crimes committed against minors. According to reports in the Spanish media, senior church officials at the conference, including two Vatican cardinals, applauded when Castrillón issued his defense.Beyond the specific question of the confessional, Castrillón has long been among those church leaders who argue that bishops should not be put in the position of reporting their priests to the police or other authorities, on the grounds that it disrupts a father/son relationship with his clergy. Instead, such leaders suggest, bishops should encourage the victims themselves to make a report.

Here is a translation of Castrillon Hoyos’s letter to the French bishop. Assuming this translation is correct, I don’t see where this has anything to do with the seal of the confessional. The cardinal is not relying on the seal to make his argument here:

September 8, 2001Most Reverend Excellency:I am writing to you as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, charged with collaborating in the responsibility of the common Father over all the priests of the world.I congratulate you for not having denounced a priest to the civil administration. You have acted well, and I rejoice to have a brother in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all the other bishops of the world, has preferred prison rather than denouncing his priest-son.In reality, the relationship between priests and their bishop is not professional; it is a sacramental relationship, which creates very special bonds of spiritual paternity. This theme has been amply taken up again by the last Council, by the 1971 Synod of Bishops and the one in 1991. The bishop has other means of acting, as the Episcopal Conference of France has recently recalled; but a bishop cannot be required to denounce [him] himself. In all civilized legal systems it is recognized that close relatives have the opportunity not to testify against a direct relative.We recall to you in your regard the words of St. Paul: “My imprisonment has become well known in Christ throughout the whole Praetorium and to all the rest, and the majority of the brothers, having taken encouragement in the Lord from my imprisonment, dare more than ever to proclaim the word fearlessly” (Phil. 1:13-14).This Congregation, in order to encourage brothers in the episcopate in this very sensitive area, will send copies of this letter to all the conferences of bishops.Assuring you of my fraternal closeness in the Lord, I greet you with your auxiliary and the whole of your diocese.Dario Castrillon H

David Gibson adds more context — and creates more confusion:

Whether Ratzinger himself was on board with mandatory reporting to authorities is also unclear. In February 2002, Ratzinger’s top lieutenant at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, said new internal church norms he and Ratzinger just completed to help bishops deal with abusers would not compel them to hand over molesters.”It seems to me that there is no basis for demanding that a bishop, for example, be obliged to turn to civil magistrates and denounce a priest that has confided in him to have committed the crime of pedophilia,” Bertone told the Italian Catholic monthly, 30 Giorni.After Ratzinger was elected pope, he made Bertone a cardinal and named him his secretary of state, basically the second-in-command at the Vatican.

UPDATE.2: Wow, that Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos is a world-class knothead. Check out this amazing interview translated by Austen Ivereigh at the (Jesuit) America magazine blog. Excerpt below the jump:

A glimpse of that attitude was on vivid display in an April 11 interview that Cardinal Castrillón-Hoyos — who along with Cardinal Law (formerly of Boston) is one of the leaders of the movement behind the restoration of traditionalist liturgy — gave to the Spanish-language CNN. My translation:”As prefect of the Congregation for Clergy I had meetings with scientists. And there was one group of scientists who said that the paedophile doesn’t exist; there exist persons who commit acts of paedophilia, but the illness of paedophilia doesn’t exist. So, when one person makes a mistake, which is often a minimal error, that person is accused – that person confesses his crime, or is shown his crime — the bishop punishes him according to what [canon] law allows: he suspends him, takes him out of a parish for a time, then sends him to another parish. He is correcting him. This is not a crime, this is not a cover-up, this is following the law just as civil society does in the case of doctors and lawyers – in other words, it’s not about taking away the chance of them exercising their profession for ever.”So you mean, asks Patricia Janiot, that for the Church sex abuse of minors is not a crime? Castrillón-Hoyos loses his rag in a flash of arrogance.”Patricia, for the love of God, don’t you understand what I’m saying? Am I speaking a foreign language? I’m talking in Castilian. The Church punishes paedophilia as a very serious crime – do I have to repeat this a thousand times? — but punishes it according to the law. The fact that it is a serious crime does not authorise a bishop to punish without following the processes to which the accused has a right.”When Janiot asks him about those processes, the cardinal talks about the need for corrobative evidence and witnesses but quickly adds that even when these exist, “when you factor in the enormous sums of money which are benefitting large numbers of people in relation to these crimes, we all have the right to question the honesty of those cases.”Janiot then asks him whether, if Pope John Paul II had acted more decisively to clear up the mishandling of abuse cases, Pope Benedict would not have inherited such a large problem. Castrillón-Hoyos is having none of it.”Pope John Paul did everything he should have done, and did so within the clearest norms of justice, charity, and of equity, – he did exactly what he should have done to maintain the purity of the Church. He did exactly what he should have done. I am witness to his worries and his pains. It is very easy to have news stories about cases which have not proved in which the image of the clergy is far from reality – this does not mean that there have not been painful cases in the Church; he knew of them, and he punished them. Show me one single case – I challenge people – one known case anywhere in the world where a case has been proved where the delinquent has not been punished.””What about the case of Fr Maciel?” Janiot answers. “This was never brought to justice. He died, never having been tried.”Cardinal Castrillon’s eyes look sharply to the left, to where an advisor or lawyer is obviously sitting. He then turns back to the camera. “Non ti rispondo”, he answers (in Italian, oddly). The interview is over.

If you understand Spanish, you can watch the entire eight-minute interview here. The cardinal’s face is often angry throughout; I don’t understand the language, but he comes across as someone who feels he is having to sit through an interrogation he finds insulting:UPDATE.3: Pope Benedict met with clerical abuse victims in Malta today.

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