Rod Dreher

The organizers of a traditional Latin mass in Washington this past weekend wisely disinvited Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, fearing that protests over the retired cardinal’s letter in support of a molester-protecting French bishop would mar the day. Good move. In a new report in the National Catholic Reporter, the indefatigable Jason Berry reports on how Castrillon, when he was in charge of the global priest office in the Vatican, intervened against an American bishop who was desperate to remove a notorious child molester from the priesthood. Excerpt:

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the former Vatican official who sent a letter in 2001 praising a French bishop for sheltering an abusive priest, had earlier intervened, against the wishes of a U.S. bishop, on behalf of an American abuser priest, according to documents that were part of a lawsuit.
Castrillon pressured Bishop Manuel Moreno, who was bishop of Tucson, Ariz., from 1982-2003, to allow a priest sex abuser to take a pension and work outside the diocese, despite allegations that would later jolt the diocese and cost millions to resolve. Fr Robert Trupia “sexually abused dozens of minor boys” before he was defrocked in 2004, according to documents in the civil case.
The litigation surrounding the case opens a rare window on the operation of the Vatican legal system.
Castrillon, who was named a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1998, sparked a new episode in the Vatican crisis last week when his 2001 letter to a French bishop surfaced, praising him for sheltering a predator. Moreover, Castrillon implicated the late John Paul II in that decision. “After consulting the pope … I wrote a letter to the bishop congratulating him as a model of a father who does not hand over his sons,” Castrillon was quoted in the daily La Verdad as telling a religious conference in Spain on April 16.
Four years before that letter, Castrillon, who was then head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, challenged Moreno’s disciplinary action against Trupia, and threatened the bishop with possible financial damages if he did not allow the accused predator to maintain his priestly status and work elsewhere.
“I have never seen the direct intervention of a prefect of a Vatican congregation in a case like this,” said Dominican Fr. Thomas P. Doyle, a canon lawyer who worked as expert witness for the plaintiff’s attorney, Lynn Cadigan.


Although the cases against Trupia have been resolved and he has been removed from the priesthood, NCR recently received documents that were part of the litigation showing Castrillon’s role in the matter.
Castrillon, a multilingual Colombian, canon lawyer and forceful critic of liberation theology, manipulated the Vatican system for years, as the documents reveal. Among the duties of the Congregation for Clergy is overseeing cases in which priests seek recourse against putatively unfair treatment by a given bishop.
The letters between Castrillon and Moreno expose an intra-church drama in which a troubled bishop spent years trying to oust a pedophile, only to be thwarted by a powerful official whose star was rising inside the Roman Curia.

Read the whole thing. No kidding, it’s shocking to read how Fr. Trupia, the molester, manipulated the system to hold onto his position, and how this powerful curial cardinal helped him, tying the local bishop’s hands. The Trupia case ended up costing the diocese plenty. Among other things, this story again demolishes the useful (to some) fiction that the abuse scandal is something that can be pinned on liberal Catholics. Castrillon was and is an arch-conservative. Of course, certain liberal Catholics have a habit of selectively interpreting evidence to blame this on conservative Catholics. The scandal is far more complicated than ideologues of either side have it.
I was thinking about this this morning when I read this NYT commentary about how the Catholic Church in Poland helps hold Polish society together. Excerpt:

In Krakow, a few days before the president and his wife were placed in the crypt in Wawel Cathedral, Szymon Wawszczak, 22, pondered Poland’s relationship to the church. “There are certain universal truths,” he said, “represented by the words God, honor, fatherland.”
It was a refrain I would hear over and over while I was there, yet one I would never hear in Berlin, where I live — especially now, as the Catholic Church scandal continues to deepen and take the shape of a more enduring crisis. The controversy over molestation by priests that has gripped Western Europe — in Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands and now Belgium — has barely touched Poland. Only a few cases of abuse have been publicly aired, and relatively little attention has been paid to the scandals outside of Poland.
“The church has certainly done a lot in order to keep the nation alive and to bring this nation together, especially during difficult times,” said Wojciech Eichelberger, a leading psychologist and author in Warsaw. “This historical role of the Polish church contributes to the fact that the church is overprotected by citizens and public institutions.”
“This is not good,” Mr. Eichelberger commented, “neither for the church nor for Poles, since it leaves too much space for the lack of demands and consequently for misconduct.”
In an article this month in the leading daily Gazeta Wyborcza, a 42-year-old man from the northern Polish town of Kartuzy, who gave his name as Jarek and said he was abused by a priest as a child, told the newspaper the country was not ready to deal with abuse in the church. “It’s still too early,” Jarek said. “I have no doubt. Can you imagine what the life would look like of an inhabitant of a small town or village who decided to talk?”
“I can already see the committees of defense for the accused priests,” the victim told the newspaper.

The essay discusses how Poland differs so strongly from western Europe in that religion is such an influential part of social life. It was hard for me to read, because what Poland has is what religious believers like me wish we had more of in our highly secularized Western societies. I want to see the social good in a highly religious society like Poland’s, but the bad — such as the abuse victim’s justifiable fear of making public accusations against the clergy — is inseparable from that good. In theory, the strength of the Church to influence society should not require a conspiracy of silence about the failures of the institution. Yet that’s how it turns out in practice. Can we have a more vibrantly religious society without a tacit agreement among ourselves that we’re going to ignore or downplay serious problems with the clergy, etc.? Depressingly, I doubt it.
On the other hand, it is certainly an open question about how sustainable a secular society is over the long term without the Church (by which I mean not only the Catholic Church) as an effective stabilizing force — this, given the need humans have for religion. Please take a look at philosopher John Gray’s devastating take-down of the New Atheist philosopher A.C. Grayling’s new book. Gray is not himself a religious believer, but he finds Grayling’s fundamentalist faith in atheism and secularism to be terribly naive. Excerpts:

Reading Grayling, it is hard to resist the impression that he believes Western civilization would be much improved if it did not include the Judeo-Christian inheritance. Absurd as it is, there is nothing new in such a claim. It is one of the most venerable clichés of Enlightenment thinking, and Ideas that Matter is a compendium of such dated prejudices. When Grayling condemns religion on the grounds that “a theory that explains everything, and can be falsified by nothing, is empty,” he takes for granted that religions are primitive theories, now rendered obsolete by science. Such was the position of J. G. Frazer, the Victorian evangelist for positivism and author of the once-celebrated survey of myth, The Golden Bough (1890). In this view, religion is chiefly a product of intellectual error, and will fade away along with continuing scientific advance. But what if science were to show that religion serves needs that do not change with the growth of knowledge–the need for meaning, for example? In that case, it would not be religion and science that were at odds, but science and atheism. The upshot of scientific inquiry would be that religion is an ineradicable part of human life. Atheism–at least of the evangelical variety that Grayling promotes, which aims to convert humankind from religion–would be a supremely pointless exercise.
Yet the possibility that scientific advancement might actually undermine his convictions is not one that Grayling seems to have entertained. This is hardly surprising, for his views on ethics, politics and religion, while adamantly held, are commonplace. Aside from the vehemence with which his prejudices are expressed, there is nothing in Ideas that Matter that would raise an eyebrow at the most genteel Hampstead dinner party. Anyone who remembers British left-liberal opinion as it was in the seventies will immediately recognize it here. Socialism and democracy, the horrors of religion and the near inevitability of ongoing secularization–these ephemera of a half-forgotten past are presented as ruling ideas of the twenty-first century.


Industrial-style authorship of this kind is a triumph of the will rather than a display of intelligence. The effect is one of wearisome repetition, and one wonders what Grayling imagines he has achieved by the exercise. All of these volumes preach the same sermon: history is a record of crime, oppression and superstition; but salvation is at hand through rational inquiry, the gift of the Greeks that was lost in the Dark Ages and rediscovered in the Enlightenment. Repeating this as Grayling does, over and over again, suggests that he believes the lesson has still not been understood, and throughout his extensive corpus of polemical writings he has the manner of a querulous teacher hammering rudimentary lessons into the heads of refractory schoolchildren. For Grayling, it seems, few if any of the difficulties of ethics and politics are insoluble. The remedies for human ills are obvious, or would be so if only humans were not blinded by superstition. Never doubting that he is free of this vice, Grayling writes as one conveying the simple truth.
The result is a style of argument that, in passing over the human experience that some dilemmas are not fully soluble, is rarely persuasive and often amounts to not much more than high-minded silliness.

The human experience that some dilemmas are not fully soluble. That is the truth we all have to live with, and which takes the mickey out of ardent ideologues of religion, and militant secularists alike. The truth is, we need religion, and we need skepticism of religious institutions. Destroy or unduly diminish one, and the health of society is ill-served. How to maintain both in fruitful tension with each other? That is our tragic dilemma.
As a religious believer, I cannot lose sight of Dostoevsky’s parable of the Grand Inquisitor, who argued with Jesus that humankind is too weak to live in freedom and responsibility, and that he (the Inquisitor) loves humankind more than Jesus does, because he is able to relieve them of the burden of responsibility. A religious system that requires the “sacrifice” of abuse victims (or anybody else) to maintain its own credibility and power within society — no matter how much good is accomplished through that power — is nevertheless intolerable, or ought to be for the Christian. If we believers cannot live in truth, and reject the Noble Lie, the strength of our faith is an illusion.
Even so, the Grand Inquisitor might be a villain, but he is not wrong about human nature. He poses hard questions not only to believers, but also to secularists.

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