Archive for March 16, 2010

The Great Catholic Cover-Up

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

From Slate.com, 3.15.2010.

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The Great Catholic Cover-Up

The pope’s entire career has the stench of evil about it.

By Christopher Hitchens

Posted Monday, March 15, 2010, at 10:20 AM ET

Pope Benedict XVI

On March 10, the chief exorcist of the Vatican, the Rev. Gabriele Amorth (who has held this demanding post for 25 years), was quoted as saying that “the Devil is at work inside the Vatican,” and that “when one speaks of ‘the smoke of Satan’ in the holy rooms, it is all true—including these latest stories of violence and pedophilia.” This can perhaps be taken as confirmation that something horrible has indeed been going on in the holy precincts, though most inquiries show it to have a perfectly good material explanation.

Concerning the most recent revelations about the steady complicity of the Vatican in the ongoing—indeed endless—scandal of child rape, a few days later a spokesman for the Holy See made a concession in the guise of a denial. It was clear, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, that an attempt was being made “to find elements to involve the Holy Father personally in issues of abuse.” He stupidly went on to say that “those efforts have failed.”

He was wrong twice. In the first place, nobody has had to strive to find such evidence: It has surfaced, as it was bound to do. In the second place, this extension of the awful scandal to the topmost level of the Roman Catholic Church is a process that has only just begun. Yet it became in a sense inevitable when the College of Cardinals elected, as the vicar of Christ on Earth, the man chiefly responsible for the original cover-up. (One of the sanctified voters in that “election” was Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, a man who had already found the jurisdiction of Massachusetts a bit too warm for his liking.)

There are two separate but related matters here: First, the individual responsibility of the pope in one instance of this moral nightmare and, second, his more general and institutional responsibility for the wider lawbreaking and for the shame and disgrace that goes with it. The first story is easily told, and it is not denied by anybody. In 1979, an 11-year-old German boy identified as Wilfried F. was taken on a vacation trip to the mountains by a priest. After that, he was administered alcohol, locked in his bedroom, stripped naked, and forced to suck the penis of his confessor. (Why do we limit ourselves to calling this sort of thing “abuse”?) The offending cleric was transferred from Essen to Munich for “therapy” by a decision of then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, and assurances were given that he would no longer have children in his care. But it took no time for Ratzinger’s deputy, Vicar General Gerhard Gruber, to return him to “pastoral” work, where he soon enough resumed his career of sexual assault.

It is, of course, claimed, and it will no doubt later be partially un-claimed, that Ratzinger himself knew nothing of this second outrage. I quote, here, from the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a former employee of the Vatican Embassy in Washington and an early critic of the Catholic Church’s sloth in responding to child-rape allegations. “Nonsense,” he says. “Pope Benedict is a micromanager. He’s the old style. Anything like that would necessarily have been brought to his attention. Tell the vicar general to find a better line. What he’s trying to do, obviously, is protect the pope.”

This is common or garden stuff, very familiar to American and Australian and Irish Catholics whose children’s rape and torture, and the cover-up of same by the tactic of moving rapists and torturers from parish to parish, has been painstakingly and comprehensively exposed. It’s on a level with the recent belated admission by the pope’s brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, that while he knew nothing about sexual assault at the choir school he ran between 1964 and 1994, now that he remembers it, he is sorry for his practice of slapping the boys around.

Very much more serious is the role of Joseph Ratzinger, before the church decided to make him supreme leader, in obstructing justice on a global scale. After his promotion to cardinal, he was put in charge of the so-called “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” (formerly known as the Inquisition). In 2001, Pope John Paul II placed this department in charge of the investigation of child rape and torture by Catholic priests. In May of that year, Ratzinger issued a confidential letter to every bishop. In it, he reminded them of the extreme gravity of a certain crime. But that crime was the reporting of the rape and torture. The accusations, intoned Ratzinger, were only treatable within the church’s own exclusive jurisdiction. Any sharing of the evidence with legal authorities or the press was utterly forbidden. Charges were to be investigated “in the most secretive way … restrained by a perpetual silence … and everyone … is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office … under the penalty of excommunication.” (My italics). Nobody has yet been excommunicated for the rape and torture of children, but exposing the offense could get you into serious trouble. And this is the church that warns us against moral relativism! (See, for more on this appalling document, two reports in the London Observer of April 24, 2005, by Jamie Doward.)

Not content with shielding its own priests from the law, Ratzinger’s office even wrote its own private statute of limitations. The church’s jurisdiction, claimed Ratzinger, “begins to run from the day when the minor has completed the 18th year of age” and then lasts for 10 more years. Daniel Shea, the attorney for two victims who sued Ratzinger and a church in Texas, correctly describes that latter stipulation as an obstruction of justice. “You can’t investigate a case if you never find out about it. If you can manage to keep it secret for 18 years plus 10, the priest will get away with it.”

The next item on this grisly docket will be the revival of the long-standing allegations against the Rev. Marcial Maciel, founder of the ultra-reactionary Legion of Christ, in which sexual assault seems to have been almost part of the liturgy. Senior ex-members of this secretive order found their complaints ignored and overridden by Ratzinger during the 1990s, if only because Father Maciel had been praised by the then-Pope John Paul II as an “efficacious guide to youth.” And now behold the harvest of this long campaign of obfuscation. The Roman Catholic Church is headed by a mediocre Bavarian bureaucrat once tasked with the concealment of the foulest iniquity, whose ineptitude in that job now shows him to us as a man personally and professionally responsible for enabling a filthy wave of crime. Ratzinger himself may be banal, but his whole career has the stench of evil—a clinging and systematic evil that is beyond the power of exorcism to dispel. What is needed is not medieval incantation but the application of justice—and speedily at that.

How Is The Pope Different From Cardinal Law?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The opinion piece below is by Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic and is from his blog The Daily Dish, 3.16.2010.

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How Is The Pope Different From Cardinal Law?

16 Mar 2010 12:35 pm


A priest is discovered to have been actively molesting children. His superior is notified in 1980. One of the things he is told of is the priest’s forcing an 11 year old boy to perform oral sex on him. The superior does not contact the police. He approves a transfer of the priest to a different city, where the priest is required to undergo therapy but is also subsequently able to resume his work with access to children. Six years later, the priest is again found guilty of abusing children. This time, he serves a sentence, but he is subsequently allowed to resume work as a priest, with the church authorities hiding his past from future parishes, and is only removed from his position three days ago.

Joseph Ratzinger was the superior, he reviewed the man’s files in 1980, and he was subsequently in charge of reviewing all sex abuse cases as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine Of The Faith in Rome. He was integral to the policy of hushing up as much of this as possible. Money quote:

Hundreds of victims have come forward in recent months in Germany with accounts of sexual abuse from decades past. But no case has captured the attention of the nation like that of Father Hullermann, not only because of the involvement of the future pope, but also because of the impunity that allowed a child molester to continue to work with altar boys and girls for decades after his conviction.

Benedict not only served as the archbishop of the diocese where the priest worked, but also later as the cardinal in charge of reviewing sexual abuse cases for the Vatican. Yet until the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising announced that Father Hullermann had been suspended on Monday, he continued to serve in a series of Bavarian parishes.

In 1980, the future pope reviewed the case of Father Hullermann, who was accused of sexually abusing boys in the Diocese of Essen, including forcing an 11-year-old boy to perform oral sex. The future pope approved his transfer to Munich.

We don’t know what lies ahead in Germany but if the story follows the pattern in the US, Australia and Ireland, the number of victims will grow, and the church hierarchy will at first blame anti-Catholic media for attacking the church, and at some point, the whole grisly truth will come out. Except this time, the current Pope himself will be – and already is – at the center of the storm.

If this person headed a secular organization, or if he were a politician, he would be forced to resign. Why are the standards for the Catholic church so much lower on tolerance of child abuse than the rest of society? On what grounds can this Pope reprimand bishops and priests in Ireland or the US when he seems deeply entangled in the same kind of cover-ups himself?

When, in other words, will the real victims come first? And moral responsibility meaningfully taken?

(Photo: Pope Benedict XVI by Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty.)

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VERY IMPORTANT: Tom Doyle comments on “Crimen Sollicitationis”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Received by email from Tom Doyle.

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Thomas Doyle, O.P., J.C.D.

March 12, 2010

1.         Confession of sins to a priest in a private, totally confidential setting has been the norm in the Catholic Church since the fifth century and possibly earlier.  It replaced the public confession of sins which had been common in the earliest Christian communities.  In 1215 the Fourth Lateran Council required Catholics to confess their sins at least once a year.  With the advent of the private confession of sins came the abuse known as solicitation for sex in the act of sacramental confession. Unscrupulous priests began to use the intimacy of confession as an opportunity to seduce the penitent into some form of sexual contact.  This abuse is particularly heinous because it takes advantage of a person when he or she is most vulnerable and susceptible to the abuse of priestly power. It is not known when the very first reports of solicitation became known, but by the 16th century the Church had begun to pass legislation to control and eradicate this vile form of abuse.

2.         The Popes and various regional bishops issued a series of disciplinary laws against solicitation, beginning in 1561 and extending to 2001.  Papal laws were promulgated in 1561, 1622, 1741, 1869, 1917, 1922, 1962, 1983 and 2001.  In addition to the legislation itself, the church courts prosecuted individual cases in great numbers.  The most complete records have been found in the Spanish and Mexican tribunals and reveal a shockingly high volume of complaints from women and men, accusing priests of solicitation and sexual abuse in a variety of forms.  There are also cases from schools attached to monasteries where the priests used the confessional to seduce young boys.  The most complete study of cases from the Spanish tribunals revealed that between 1723 and 1820, 3775 cases were completed and sentences handed down. (Charles Henry, A History of the Inquisition in Spain. (New York, MacMillan, 1907), p. 135.)  This did not represent the total number of cases presented since the majority were abandoned or never completed.

3.         The first Code of Canon Law was promulgated in 1917.  Solicitation was listed as a canonical crime (c. 2368).  The canon mentions several penalties including possible dismissal from the clerical state.  The second paragraph imposes on the person solicited a grave obligation of reporting or “denouncing” the priest.  Failure to do so within one month resulted in an automatic penalty of excommunication. Thus, the one soliciting can be removed from the clerical state and consequently from the active priesthood but the victim or penitent faces an even more severe penalty which is exclusion from the Church itself.  The new Code contained as an appendix the apostolic constitution Sacramentum poenitentiae, issued by Pope Benedict XIV on June 1, 1741.  This was the most solemn pronouncement against solicitation issued to that time as well as the most complete treatment of the nature of solicitation as a crime.

4.         The Congregation of the Holy Office issued a decree in the form of an instruction on June 9, 1922.  The decree was signed by Cardinal Merry del Val and issued under the authority and with the explicit approval of Pope Pius XI.  The formal name was “On the Manner of Proceeding in Cases of Solicitation.” The instruction was essentially a set of procedures to be followed by bishops for the investigation and prosecution of priests accused of solicitation.  These procedures replaced the penal procedures contained in the Code of Canon Law.

5.         There are several aspects of this decree which are of particular importance.  They will be listed here and covered in greater detail later in this paper:

a.         The document was sent to every bishop in the world

b.         Absolute secrecy was imposed on the document itself.

c.         Three other sexual crimes committed by clerics were also to be investigated and prosecuted according to the norms of the instruction:  same sex relations, sexual abuse of minors and bestiality.

d.         The highest degree of secrecy, the Secret of the Holy Office, was imposed on everyone involved in the process from the time it started.  Violation meant immediate excommunication.

6.         The 1922 instruction was replaced by a similar document, commonly referred to by its Latin title, Crimen Sollicitationis.  It was issued by the Congregation of the Holy Office on March 16, 1962, under the signature of the Prefect, Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, and with the approval of Pope John XXIII.    This is the normal manner of receiving Papal approval for documents of this nature.  Like its predecessor, it was then sent to all the bishops in the world.  The bishops were admonished to maintain strict confidentiality about the document and ordered not to allow it to be reproduced or commented upon.

[This text is] to be diligently stored in the secret archives of the Curia as strictly confidential.  Nor is it to be published nor added to with any commentaries.

7.         Crimen Sollicitationis remained in effect until 2001 when the Vatican published a new set of procedures for investigating and prosecuting especially grave canonical crimes, including certain sexual crimes committed by the clergy.  Two official documents were issued.  The first was an apostolic letter of Pope John Paul II, known by its Latin title Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, by which the actual norms were promulgated.  This letter, dated April 30, 2001, was followed on May 18, 2001 by an official document that contained the actual norms.  This latter document was signed by Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  Both documents refer to certain serious canonical crimes and among those is sexual abuse by clerics.  These documents represent revised procedures to be used by Bishops and major religious superiors in response to allegations of clergy sexual abuse.  Although Cardinal Ratzinger signed the document containing the norms, the source of the authority by which they became Church law was Pope John Paul II.

8.         Clergy sexual abuse issues have been handled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and its predecessors since the 18th century. This congregation was first known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition (1542-1908).  At the beginning of the 20th century Pope Pius X changed the name to the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office.  After Vatican Council II, the name was again changed to the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1965) and with the promulgation of the revised Code of Canon Law in 1983, the word “Sacred” was dropped.  Cardinal Ratzinger, presently Pope Benedict XVI, had been the prefect, or head, since 1981.  Although he signed the letter containing the revised norms and quite possibly had a direct role in drafting it, the procedures themselves had to be approved or promulgated by the Pope for validity and effect.  Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 and appointed William Cardinal Levada to succeed him as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

9.         Under ordinary circumstances Crimen Sollicitationis would have ceased to have legal force with the promulgation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.  This was not the case however, and the words of the subsequent document, commonly known as De delictis gravioribus, signed by Cardinal Ratzinger, clarify this issue:

At approximately the same time the Congregation for the Faith, through an ad hoc Commission it had established, devoted itself to a diligent study of the canons on delicts, both of the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, in order to determine “more grave delicts both against morals and in the celebration of the sacraments” and in order to make special procedural norms “to declare or impose canonical sanctions, “because the Instruction Crimen Sollicitationis, issued by the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office on March 16, 1962,(3) in force until now, was to be reviewed when the new canonical Codes were promulgated.

10.       This position has been reiterated by canonical scholars and by officials of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith itself.  The officers of the Canon Law Society of America visited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1996 and discussed the document with the secretary of the Congregation who was Archbishop, now Cardinal, Tarcisio Bertone.  In its June 1996 newsletter the Canon Law Society reported on their visit:

The norms on solicitation cases issued in 1962 are currently under review by a commission within the CDF. New norms are required in light of the revision of canon law. In the interim, the 1962 norms should be followed, with obvious adaptations.

11.       Msgr. Brian Ferme, former Dean of the School of Canon Law at Catholic University of America, Washington D.C., in an affidavit submitted in a California civil case in 2005 stated that “technically the 1962 Instruction was in force until the publication of the 2001 document by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

12.       The 1922 and 1962 documents are identical in content.  The 1962 document however contains an appendix which provides the formularies to be used for the various steps in the judicial process.  Both the 1922 and 1962 documents were intended for use in cases involving diocesan priests as well as priests who were members of religious communities.

13.       Crimen Sollicitationis was sent to every bishop in the world; yet detailed awareness of its contents has been limited to bishops, and other church officials with a need to know.   Unlike most official legal documents issued by the Holy See, this document as well as its 1922 predecessor were not included in any of the canonical collections, official or private.  Although some unofficial sources have claimed that the 1962 document was only sent to bishops upon request, there is no reason to believe such an assertion.  The fact that a copy of the document may not be found in diocesan archives or a bishop’s personal files does not constitute proof that it was not sent to all bishops.  An Instruction is a form of document or communication used by the Holy See to assist in understanding and applying certain norms in Canon Law.  An instruction is not a new law that replaces other legislation.  Rather it may be described as an enhancement to assist in the application of existing laws.

14.       Although Crimen Sollicitationis was published with orders that it remain confidential, this did not prohibit it from being studied after its promulgation.  Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, testified in 2008 that the document was known to him as a seminarian and that it was studied as part of a course on moral theology:

Q.        Did you know that the Office of the Holy See through the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith had implemented a protocol and an instruction to all the superiors across the world regarding solicitation in the confessional?

A.         What was the year of that protocol please?

Q.        The year the protocol was issued was 1962.

A.         Oh. Okay. Then yes.

Q.        My question goes to 2002 and did you know that such a protocol had been issued and disseminated by the Office of the Holy See to the superiors?

A.         Yes.  I was a seminarian in 1962 and in moral theology class that was the document that was given us when we discussed the sacrament of penance. (Deposition in Doe et al vs. Archdiocese of Chicago, Jan. 30, 2008, p. 24-25)

15.         Bishop Joseph Madera, retired bishop of Fresno, also testified in a deposition (Coordinated proceeding, Clergy Cases III, March 1, 2006) that when he was a pastor in Los Angeles in 1962, the archbishop called a special meeting of the priests to discuss the document:

Q.       Have you ever seen any protocols issued by the Vatican at any time while serving

as a priest or as a bishop that deals with crimes of solicitation in the confessional and protocols dealing with it?

A.         I was familiar that we had to take action.  I was informed.

Q.        By the Vatican?

A.         Yes.

Q.        How were you so informed?

A.         I was in Oxnard and the Bishop of Los Angeles used to call us to meetings and explain to us what kind of important issues had been published.

Q.        Did you understand that when it came to crimes of solicitation in the confessional, if such an accusation was to be made or was made, it was to be kept secret under those protocols?

A.         No.  I had a very clear idea what I was supposed to do in those cases.

Q.        What were you supposed to do?

A.         Report it to Rome immediately. (P. 156, 157)

Q.        Bishop Madera, you had mentioned that in connection with our discussion about the protocols from the Vatican and the solicitation in the confessional, that there was some kind of meeting with the archbishop where these protocols were discussed.  When was that?

A.         With the Archbishop of Los Angeles?

Q.        Yes.

A.         Probably in the early sixties.  Probably.

Q.        Was that then Archbishop Manning?

A.         Yes. (P. 159. 160)

16.       The 1962 document Crimen Sollicitationis was issued before the Second Vatican Council had taken place and before the revision of the present Code of Canon Law (1983). The Vatican practice of issuing special procedural rules for its various courts or tribunals is not unusual. It is also not unusual to have a special document issued for a specific type of problem which in this case was solicitation of sex in the context of sacramental confession.

17.       Title V of the document (and the 1922 document as well), “De crimine pessima” includes the crimes of homosexual sexual acts, sexual contacts with minors and bestiality.  These crimes are also to be processed according to these special norms. The document does not imply that these crimes were to have been perpetrated through solicitation in the confessional.  It included them under the title “De crimine pessima” or “The worst crimes” presumably because of their serious nature.  This gravity caused them to be included under these special procedural norms.  The 1922 document has an identical section.  The norms of both documents were thus established as the obligatory procedures for prosecuting cases of four separate and distinct canonical crimes, namely, a) solicitation for sex in the act of sacramental confession, b) homosexual sex, c) sexual abuse of minor males or females, d) bestiality or sex with animals.  It is therefore incorrect to state that the norms and procedures of Crimen Sollicitationis are applicable only to cases of solicitation for sex in the confessional.

18.       These four types of sexual crimes were already included in the Code of Canon Law (1917 version). Solicitation is covered in canon 2368, par. 1 and sexual contact with minors and bestiality in canon 2359, 2. Ordinarily the prosecution of these crimes would be processed

according to the procedural laws of the Code. The 1922 and 1962 documents provided special norms with an added emphasis on confidentiality because of the very serious nature of the crimes involved.  These special procedural norms were an expansion, with added detail, upon the procedural law of the Code. The existence of this document also clearly proves that the highest Catholic Church authorities were aware of the especially grave nature of the clergy sexual crimes considered. This of course makes it difficult for any Church leader to credibly claim that the problem of clergy sexual abuse was an unknown quantity prior to 1984.

19.       Though some have claimed that Crimen Sollicitationis applies only to solicitation in the confessional, and not to other sexual crimes perpetrated by clerics, the opposite is true.  The very words of the document itself clearly establish that those acts included under the classification of “the worst crime,” (de crimine pessimo) are to be processed according to the norms set forth for the crime of solicitation.  This issue was taken up by Msgr. Brian Ferme, J.C.D., in his article entitled “Graviora delictathe apostolic letter M.P. Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela.” which appeared in the book Il processo penale canonico (Rome: Lateran University Press, 2003):

While the instruction dealt specifically with solicitation and the procedural norms to be applied in judging this crime, the fifth chapter stated that the same norms were also to be observed for the Acrimen pessimum (art. 71), which was understood to include paedolphilia (art. 73).  In other words at the promulgation of the CIC83 [Code of Canon Law, 1983] the “graviora delicta reserved to the CDF seemed to be those concerned with solicitation, the violation of the seal of confession and the ‘criminum pessimum’ as understood by the 1962 Norms, though the actual praxis of the Congregation may have included others.”

20.       Furthermore, in a deposition of Msgr. Ferme taken in a civil case in California in 2005, he repeated this opinion when asked by the attorney taking the deposition about the relationship of pedophilia to the 1962 document:

Q.        And according to your article, the 1962 instruction was understood to include the crime of pedophilia, correct?

A.         Correct, as was the Code of Canon Law of 1917.

Q.        And that would be pedophilic acts committed either in connection with the confession or not, correct?

A.         Correct.

In 2005 Msgr. Ferme also submitted an affidavit in the same civil case in which he said:

A careful and correct reading of Titulus V of the 1962 instruction establishes that what had heretofore been established for the crime of solicitation in the 1962 Instruction, namely the precise procedural rules, was to be applied to the “>crimine pessimo”, and obviously taking into account the different configuration of the crime given that it was not as such solicitation (n. 72).

21.       The Instruction  of 1962 specifically states that those involved in processing cases under these norms are bound by the Secret of the Holy Office, the highest form of confidentiality employed by the Holy See.  Violation of the secret resulted in automatic excommunication, the lifting of which was especially reserved to the Holy Father. This represents the highest degree of Vatican secrecy which is imposed for the most serious processes and situations.  The Instruction imposes the same oath of secrecy on the accuser and on witnesses but states that the penalty of automatic excommunication is not imposed.  However this or other penalties may be imposed on the accuser or witnesses should the church authority handling the case deem it necessary.

22.       The secrecy that was (and still is) imposed on parties and witnesses in canonical proceedings is intended to assure witnesses that they can speak freely. It is also intended to protect the reputations of the accused and accuser until guilt or innocence is determined. The almost paranoid insistence on secrecy throughout the  1922 and 1962 documents is probably related to two issues: the first is the scandal that would arise were the public to hear stories of priests committing such terrible crimes. The second reason is the protection of the inviolability of the sacrament of penance.

23.       According to the 1922 and 1962 documents, accusers and witnesses are bound by the secrecy obligation during and after the process but certainly not prior to the initiation of the process.  There is no basis to assume that the Holy See officially envisioned this process to be a substitute for any secular legal process, criminal or civil.  It is also incorrect to assume, as some have unfortunately done, that these two Vatican documents are proof of a conspiracy to hide sexually abusive priests or to prevent the disclosure of sexual crimes committed by clerics to secular authorities. The documents were written in a style and within an ecclesiastical context common for that pre-Vatican II era.  Both are legal-canonical documents written in highly technical language. The English translation of Crimen Sollicitationis, though basically accurate, is also strained and awkward which can lend itself to misunderstanding.

24.       To fully understand the overriding concern for secrecy one must also understand the traditional canonical concept known as the “Privilege of the Forum” “privilegium fori” which has its roots in medieval Canon Law.  Basically this is a traditional privilege claimed by the institutional church whereby clerics accused of crimes were tried before ecclesiastical courts and not brought before civil or secular courts.  Although this privilege is anachronistic in contemporary society, the attitude or mentality which holds clerics accountable only to the institutional church authorities is still active.  This does not mean that the official Church believes that clerics accused of crimes should not to be held accountable.  It means that during certain periods in history the Church has believed that it alone should have the right to subject accused clerics to a judicial process.  The “privilegium fori” was included in the 1917 Code of Canon Law:

1.         Clerics in all cases, whether contentious or criminal, shall be brought before an ecclesiastical judge, unless it has been legitimately provided otherwise in certain places.

2.         Cardinals, Legates of the Apostolic See. Bishops, even titular ones, Abbots, Prelates Nullius, Supreme Superiors of Religious Institutes of Pontifical Right, and major officials of the Roman Curia may not be summoned before lay judges for matters pertaining to their duties without referring first to the Holy See; the same is true for others enjoying the privilege of the forum, where the Ordinary of the place [diocesan bishop] where the matter is to be tried is to be approached.  The Ordinary, however, especially when a lay person is the petitioner, will not deny this permission except for just and grave reasons, all the more so when he is unable to bring about a resolution of the controversy between the parties. (Canon 119)

25.       The canon that mentioned the privilege of the forum was not repeated in the revised Code of 1983.  However the attitude that supported the “privilegium fori”, that clerics should not be subjected to the civil law, still exists.  Expressions of it have been heard especially in regard to recent cases of sexual abuse by clergy.  Several Vatican officials including Julian Cardinal Herranz, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone and Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlando, S.J., have issued public statements to the effect that bishops should not be obliged to cooperate with secular legal authorities in cases involving sexual abuse by clerics.  The opinions of Cardinal Herranz, at the time President of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative texts, were recorded in an article published in the National Catholic Reporter:

While recognizing the competence of civil authorities, Herranz expressed strong reservations about the application to the Catholic Church of two hallmarks of American civil law — an obligation to report misconduct and monetary damages for institutional negligence. “Given the emotional wave of public clamor,” Herranz said, “some envision an obligation on the part of ecclesiastical authority to denounce to civil judges all the cases that come to their attention, as well an obligation to communicate to judges all the documentation from ecclesiastical archives.” Herranz rejected the idea. “The rapport of trust and the secrecy of the office inherent to the relationship between the bishop and his priest collaborators, and between priests and the faithful, must be respected,” he said. (John Allen, May 17, 2002, National Catholic Reporter)

26.       In a February 2002 interview with the Italian journal 30 Giorni, Cardinal Bertone, who was secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time and later became papal secretary of State said:

In my opinion, the demand that a bishop be obligated to contact the police in order to denounce a priest who has admitted the offense of pedophilia is unfounded,” Bertone said. “Naturally civil society has the obligation to defend its citizens. But it must also respect the `professional secrecy’ of priests, as it respects the professional. secrecy of other categories, a respect that cannot be reduced simply to the inviolable seal of the confessional. (John Allen, May 30, 2002, National Catholic Reporter)

Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, S.J., is dean of the faculty of Canon Law at the Gregorian University in Rome.  In an interview in 2002 he spoke about a number of aspects related to clergy sex abuse including the involvement of the secular courts:

Jesuit Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, dean of the Canon Law faculty at Rome’s Gregorian University and a judge for the Apostolic Signatura, considered the Vatican’s supreme court, addressed the issue in the May 18 [2002] issue of La Civilta Cattolica. The journal is considered quasi-official since it is reviewed by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State prior to publication.

“Certainly it does not seem pastoral behavior when a bishop or religious superior who has received a complaint informs the legal authorities of the fact in order to avoid being implicated in a civil process that the victim could undertake,” Ghirlanda wrote. (Ibid., John Allen)

27.       Why have Church authorities not advised that reports of sexual abuse of minors by clergy be referred to either child welfare agencies or law enforcement authorities?  Why have some authorities publicly opposed turning clerics suspected of serious crimes over to secular law enforcement authorities?  There is historical evidence that in the past clerics suspected of sexual abuse of minors were first tried in ecclesiastical courts and then turned over to secular authorities for additional prosecution and possible punishment. (cf. R. Sheer,  “A Canon, a Choirboy and Homosexuality in Late Sixteenth Century Italy: a Case Study,”  Journal of Homosexuality 21(1991): 1-22).    There is no official reason for the failure to do so in recent times.  Possibly the church authorities were trying to avoid the harsh publicity that results from exposure of clergy sexual abuse.  Another possible reason is grounded in the attitude that supported the “privilegium fori” or Privilege of the Forum, namely, that the Church had the right to try clerics before its own courts.   In any event there is no legitimate reason for neglecting to notify civil law enforcement authorities especially in light of recent experience which has shown Church authorities to be consistently negligent in its handling of such cases.

28.       Although the objective reasons for the extreme secrecy may be understandable within the context of the time it was written, the obsession with secrecy through the years has been instrumental in preventing both justice and compassionate care for victims. It has enabled the widespread spirit of denial among clergy, hierarchy and laity.  Secrecy has been justified to avoid scandal when in fact it has enabled even more scandal.

29.       The press reports quote several church sources which state that the 1962 document is obscure and probably had remained unknown to the vast majority of bishops and church bureaucrats until it was cited in the new norms issued in 2001.  Though the document may have been unknown to many in Church authority positions in recent years, there is documentary evidence that both the 1922 and 1962 documents have been used in the prosecution of cases of clergy sexual misconduct and specifically sexual abuse of minors, in the past.

30.       The 1922 and 1962 documents reflect a highly confidential and even secretive attitude with regard to internal church matters which was common for the time they were written, but is no longer acceptable as the preferred way of dealing with such heinous crimes. These crimes have a profound negative impact on the lives of the victims, yet this impact can become lost in the concern for confidentiality. The obsession with secrecy causes denial to flourish. Certainly the institutional church and its clergy and hierarchy would have been deeply embarrassed in 1922 or in 1962 were the public to have learned of clergy sexual crimes. This embarrassment should have been endured because it is nothing compared to the spiritual, emotional and physical devastation of the victims.

31.       Nevertheless we cannot accurately interpret and criticize the 1962 document solely by our contemporary standards based on the institutional church’s handling of clergy sex abuse cases over the past few years. It is dangerous to isolate the 1962 document and then strain to make it more than what is was intended to be for in so doing the meaning of the document and the actual intention of the framers can become distorted.

32.       The institutional Catholic Church has been criticized for having a culture of secrecy, especially with regard to clergy sexual misconduct.  Such secrecy in these matters has not been the constant practice of Church leadership since its own documentation from the past demonstrates that official attempts to curb violations of mandatory clerical celibacy were regularly published to all.  For example, the Apostolic Constitution Sacramentum Poenitentiae, issued by Pope Benedict XIV in 1741, was included in the 1917 Code of Canon Law.

33.       It appears that the obligation of secrecy for such cases was imposed by Pope Pius IX in 1866.  The official document that imposes the secrecy was published on February 20, 1866 by the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office in the form of an AInstruction@. This instruction provided clarification on certain aspects of the previous papal constitution dealing with solicitation in the confessional, Sacramentum Poenitentiae (1741) of Pope Benedict XIV.  The actual text is as follows:

Par. 14.  In handling these cases, either by Apostolic commission or the appropriate ruling of the Bishops, the greatest care and vigilance must be exercised so that these procedures, inasmuch as they pertain to [matters of] faith, are to be completed in absolute secrecy, and after they have been settled and given over to sentencing, are to be completely suppressed by perpetual silence.  All the ecclesiastic ministers of the curia [court], and whoever else is summoned to the proceedings, including counsels for the defense, must submit oaths of maintaining secrecy, and even the Bishops themselves and any of the local Ordinaries are obligated to keep the secret. (in Codicis Iuris Canonici Fontes, Rome, 1926, vol. IV, n. 990, p. 267.

34.       The 1962 document and its predecessor from 1922 are not proof of an explicit world-wide conspiracy to cover up clergy sex crimes.  It seems more accurate to assess both statements as indications of an official policy of secrecy rather than a conspiracy of cover up. The reasons for the insistence on such confidentiality were no doubt grounded in the desire to protect the sacraments of penance and holy orders, to safeguard the inviolability of the confessional seal and to prevent false accusations of solicitation.  There was also the desire to prevent scandal and damage to the reputation of the clergy.  Nevertheless such secrecy has not been well accepted or understood in the present day in light of the official Church’s response to reports of clergy sex abuse.  The policy of extreme confidentiality, whether it has ever been officially published as such or not, has been deeply rooted in the ecclesial culture for centuries.  The documents under consideration are products of that culture.  They did not create the obsession with secrecy but are a result of it.

35.       On the other hand, there are too many authenticated reports of victims having been seriously intimidated into silence by church authorities to assert that such intimidation is the exception and not the norm.  It is quite possible that most of the bishops who have served during the past thirty years were not aware of the existence of the 1962 document until it was publicly acknowledged by the Vatican in 2001.   The cover-up happened whether or not bishops were aware of the 1962 document.  This cover-up was grounded in a culture of secrecy, clericalism and institutional self-preservation.  The 1922 and 1962 documents did not create this culture.  They arose out of it and gave canonical legal force to the pattern of secrecy.  If the 1922 and 1962 documents have been used as a justification for any cover-up or intimidation then we possibly have what some of the more critical commentators have alleged, namely, the distinct appearance of a blueprint for a cover-up.

36.       There is also an over-riding omission in the 1922 and 1962 documents and their descendant, the 2001 declaration. All three documents concentrate on prosecuting the alleged offenders and protecting the institutional church from the fallout of public knowledge of the crimes. None of these documents approaches the far more important and challenging task of pastoral care and spiritual healing for the victims of these crimes.  There is no evidence that the official Church has ever issued any norms, guidelines or instructions on the pastoral care of those harmed by clergy sexual abuse.

37.       Summary of the Documents. In light of the controversy that these documents have prompted, it is essential that they be properly understood before they are used as evidence of either criticism or affirmation of the policies and practices of the Catholic Church.

a)         The 1922 and 1962 documents were not limited to cases of solicitation for sex in the confessional.  The procedures and norms also applied to the cases of sexual abuse by clerics mentioned in Title V of Crimen Sollicitationis.  There are documents available that confirm that these norms were used in canonical judicial procedures in cases of clergy sexual abuse of minors.

b)         Although the 1922 and 1962 documents were issued in secrecy and never publicly announced, they nevertheless were communicated to every bishop in the world.  It is not correct to state or assume that these documents were sent only to selective bishops or, because of the imposed secrecy, not applicable to the universal Church.  Furthermore it is not accurate to assume that since there are very few documented cases of the practical application of the procedural norms from either the 1922 or 1962 documents that they were not sent to and received by the bishops throughout the world.

c)         The absolute secrecy was imposed on all members of the Church tribunals or diocesan administration who were involved in processing cases.  The witnesses and principal parties were also obliged to secrecy but with less severe punishments than those applied to clerics.

d)         The obligation of secrecy only went into effect once a case had been initiated.  Nothing prohibited a bishop or religious superior from notifying civil authorities of an allegation prior to the initiation of the canonical process.

e)         It is not correct to state that the popes under whose authority any of these documents (1922, 1962, and 2001) were published were either creating a blueprint for a cover-up or mandating a church-wide cover-up of clergy sexual abuse.  They were however, continuing to enforce a Church policy of secrecy in the canonical handling cases of clergy sex abuse.  It is also incorrect to use these documents to accuse any of the personnel charged with administering the Church courts, such as the Prefects of the Vatican Congregations, with participation in a cover-up in the conventional sense.

f)         The canonical obligation of the penitent, or victim of solicitation, to denounce the priest who solicited in the confessional  (canon 904 and 2368, 2) does not apply to those involved in same-sex relations with clerics, to minors sexually abused by clerics or to those knowledgeable of a cleric who committed bestiality.

38.       It is not difficult to see why so many have seen in the 1962 Vatican Instruction Crimen Sollicitationis a “smoking gun.” Over the past 18 years but especially since January 2002 we have witnessed wave after wave of deception, stone-walling, outright lying, intimidation of victims and complex schemes to manipulate the truth and obstruct justice. Evidence of this behavior on of the part of the hierarchy is found in a variety of sources but especially in the results of hundreds of cases brought before the secular courts, the reports of grand juries in several areas of the United States and the reports of special secular investigative commissions from Canada and Ireland.  We have watched as the culture of secrecy ended up causing much of what its proponents hoped it would prevent. The Vatican documents issued in 1922 and 1962 did not cause the clandestine mode of dealing with clergy sex abuse.  Rather, these two instructions should be a strong reminder that there is a much more important value than protecting the institutional church and its office-holders and that value is the creation and nurture of an attitude and aura of openness and honesty wherein true justice and compassion can flourish as the most visible of Catholic virtues.   The absence of a fundamental commitment to compassionate pastoral care of victims and survivors by the papacy and the hierarchy has led to the Church’s greatest failing in its response to the gravest challenge it has faced in centuries.

39.       The reasons for the seemingly perennial problems of clergy sexual abuse and its cover-up will not be found in Church documents alone.  One must delve deeper than the documents into the very nature of the ecclesial culture.  The documents may be indicators of the official Church’s awareness of sexual abuse of minors and other vulnerable persons by the clergy, but these documents surely are not the cause of clergy sexual abuse nor are they the foundation of the official Church’s response to such abuse.  This foundation may influence both official church documents and laws or their interpretation and application.  Nevertheless one must look deeper into the nature of the institutional Church as expressed by the hierarchy.

40.       There are several articles and commentaries available which are helpful in understanding the nature and application of the 1922 and 1962 Instructions.  These include:

Juan Ortega Uhink, S.J. De Delicto Sollicitationis.  Washington, D.C. The Catholic University of America. 1954.

John E. Downs.  The Concept of Clerical Immunity.  Washington, D.C.  The Catholic University of America. 1941.

James McGrath.  The Privilege of the Canon.  Washington, D.C.  The Catholic University of America. 1946.

John P. Beal, “The 62 Instruction Crimen Sollicitationis: Caught Red-Handed or Handed a Red-Herring.”  Studia Canonica.  41(2007): 199-136.

Brian Ferme, “Graviora Delicta: the apostolic letter M.P., Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela,” in Il Processo Penale Canonico, edited by Z. Suchecki, Rome. Lateran University. 2002.

Aurelius Yanguas, S.J.   “De crimine pessimo et competentia S. Officia relate ad illud,”  Revista Espanola de Derecho Canonico. 1(1946): 427-439.

Petrus Palazzini, “Stuprum sollicitatio ad turpio,”  in Dictionarium  Morale et Canonicum, Rome.  Officium Libri Cattolici.  1961.

Charles Scicluna, “The procedure and praxis of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding Graviora delicta.”  In Proceedings of the Annual Canon Law Conference of the Canon Law Society of Australia and New Zealand, Canberra. 2006.

MUST READ…From a pastor in Dallas: Excommunicating the Pope

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

This essay appears on the blog website of Pastor Danielle Shroyer.

Danielle is the pastor of Journey Church in Dallas.  She is the author of The Boundary-Breaking God:  An Unfolding Story of Hope and Promise (Jossey-Bass, 2009) and speaks often on issues of theology, church leadership and emerging communities of faith.  Danielle lives with her husband and two children in Dallas, Texas.

Lisa Kendzior who heads the SNAP chapter in the Dallas-Fort Worth area brought this essay to my attention. Danielle joined Lisa and other SNAP members and supporters in a SNAP candlelight vigil last Sunday evening, 3.14.2010.

Thank you, Lisa.

Thank you, Danielle.

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Excommunicating the Pope

March 16th, 2010 — 11:06am

A Catholic friend of mine and I were discussing the act of excommunication recently.  He believes that the Church ought to exercise its right to excommunicate people more often, not for punishment’s sake alone, but as a necessary act to call for repentance and reconciliation.  He believes the Church should be able to say when someone has stepped out of bounds so that the person can be lovingly called back into community.

When described in this way, I can understand excommunication as a step in the process of reconciliation. We are required to speak the truth in love to one another, not to punish, but to restore.  This is particularly poignant during the season of Lent, when frankly, we spend six weeks similarly excommunicating ourselves by recognizing our own need for repentance and reconciliation.  My problem, as it relates to my Catholic friend’s Church structure, is that excommunication only goes one way.  What happens when the Pope needs to be excommunicated?

I didn’t ask this question in abstraction.  Quite seriously, I feel that as a fellow Jesus follower, I could have provided ample reason to have excommunicated Pope John Paul II (as beloved as he was, for a good many reasons).  His utter lack of responsibility and accountability in dealing with the issues of clergy sexual abuse is worthy of every form of excommunication we could imagine.  If as Pope his job is to uphold the values and theology of the Church, then he failed in every possible way.  There is nothing about his actions that show a value for the sanctity of human life  for which the Catholic Church is so honorably known.

With a heavy heart, I fear I may have to say the same about Pope Benedict.  As you may have heard, the same scandals that made headlines in the US are surfacing in Ireland, Australia, Canada, and the Pope’s home country of Germany.  News articles like this one and this one raise these questions once again- WHY is the Catholic Church turning a blind eye to these victims?  WHY are these priests being moved from one diocese to another, where they repeat the same crimes upon a new batch of innocent child victims?  WHY are our Catholic brothers and sisters not doing something to hold their religious authority figures accountable?


Or, consider this:  when a car company was recently faced with the mounting evidence of a threat to human life,  despite their initial lack of thoroughness, they have now responded far more than the Catholic Church has, with far less evidence.   If Toyota can respond in such a manner (at no small financial cost to the company at what could be the worst possible economic moment), what does this say about the Church’s lethargic, even defiant reluctance?  Does Toyota have a higher moral code than the Vatican?  Does a for-profit global corporation have a structure more capable of responding to the endangerment of human life than all of Rome?

Sunday night I attended a candlelight vigil to stand with victims of clergy sexual abuse whose stories are surfacing around the world.  Many in attendance had suffered abuse at the hands of American clergy, and I was humbled by their bravery to give voice to their experience even as their own Church so vehemently denies it.  (Read this article from just yesterday.)  I was also deeply saddened, as I witnessed the eyes of those who fear that history will keep on repeating itself because no one seems willing to call for change.

As if the devastating effects of clergy sexual abuse are not enough, will we make them stand isolated in their suffering, with no intention toward justice or reconciliation in sight?  Who in the Church will call these priests and authority figures out of bounds by their actions (and unwillingness to act) so that they can be called back into rightful Christian community?

I was fortunate to meet Lisa Kendzior, the DFW leader for SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) on Sunday night.  If you know of anyone who has suffered clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic church or elsewhere, Lisa and SNAP are fantastic resources for healing and grace.  You can email her at lisa.kendzior@verizon.net and find out monthly meeting information.


From SPIEGEL in Germany: Pope Remains Silent as Abuse Allegations Hit Close to Home

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

From SPIEGEL in Germany, 3.15.2010.
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Scandal Widens

Pope Remains Silent as Abuse Allegations Hit Close to Home


Allegations of sexual abuse in the German Catholic Church continue to surface. Questions have been raised about what Pope Benedict XVI may have known about specific incidents of abuse and his brother, Georg Ratzinger, is also under fire. The pope, however, has so far remained silent.

Georg Ratzinger came clean about his transgressions. Indeed, it seemed to be the end of the matter — one which placed him squarely in the center of Germany’s ever expanding Church abuse scandal.

“In the beginning, I slapped (the boys) in the face on a number of occasions,” said Ratzinger, who, for decades, was the director of the Regensburger Domspatzen, one of the most renowned boys’ choirs in Germany. But he stopped the practice back in 1980, he says, because the state had banned corporal punishment. He says that he “strictly” observed the new law.

Former choirboys tell a different story. They still shudder when they recall the reverend’s severity — and his tendency toward violence, even in later years.

“Ratzinger was extremely choleric and quick-tempered during choir practice,” says Thomas Mayer, who was a student at the choir boarding school from 1988 to 1992. “On a number of occasions, I saw him get so angry that he threw a chair into our group of singers.” Once Ratzinger flew into such a rage during choir practice “that even his false teeth fell out,” says Mayer.

Ratzinger, 86, now lives in a monastery and has declined to comment further. Clarification of the matter has now been left to his younger brother: Pope Benedict XVI.

Last Friday, Benedict XVI met in the Vatican with the Chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Robert Zollitsch, to talk about violence and sexual abuse carried out by Catholic priests in his native Germany. Just like his older brother, the pope would like the world to believe that the Church has changed its ways. Benedict XVI and Zollitsch vowed to shed light on cases of abuse and assist the victims.

How Sincere?

But shortly after Zollitsch left for Germany, the pope found himself haunted by his own past as the Archbishop of Munich and Freising. His former archdiocese admitted to the center-left German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung that a pedophile priest had been reinstated to a Catholic parish in Munich during Ratzinger’s tenure.

What does the pope know from personal experience about the abuse problem? And how sincere is his promise to finally clear up the allegations of abuse?

Hardly anyone in the inner circle of the Vatican is better informed on Catholic sex scandals than His Holiness the Pope. Joseph Ratzinger was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formally known as the Inquisition. Reported cases of abuse automatically landed on his desk. Since 2001, as the Church’s most powerful cardinal, and subsequently as the pope, Ratzinger has spearheaded the Vatican’s ongoing efforts to shed light on this troublesome issue.

Nevertheless, sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has continued to regularly generate headlines. First, there were the waves of scandals in the US and Ireland. Now, hardly a day goes by in Germany without a new story on further allegations of abuse.

By the end of last week, some 200 presumed victims had contacted Ursula Raue, a Berlin attorney engaged by the Jesuits to handle abuse cases — and complaints are pouring in from all areas of the Church. Some 150 people have come forward with stories of abuse at the monastery school in Ettal, and roughly 15 former choirboys have grievances relating to the Regensburger Domspatzen.

Complex Nature of the Problem

On top of this, there have been reports from other areas of society. Cases have surfaced virtually everywhere: in the Protestant Church, in secular boarding schools like Odenwaldschule and in children’s homes in the former East Germany. The numbers are still a far cry from those linked to the Catholic Church, but they do reveal the complex nature of the problem.

It is a scandal the likes of which German society has not seen for years, and it will likely be months before it fades. Nonetheless, it is being inadequately addressed — often to a shocking degree.

This is true of the Catholic Church, which continues to damage itself as it hesitates between calls to clear up cases of abuse and the urge to hush things up. But it is also true of the state, as members of the government either let things take their course or drone on about the latest toothless initiative.

Should there be roundtable talks reserved only for members of the Catholic Church, or should they be open to a wide range of social groups? This question alone kept German ministers Kristina Schröder (family affairs), Annette Schavan (education and research) and Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (justice) squabbling for days — while Chancellor Angela Merkel stayed clear of the fray. A “broad and intensive debate” is required as a preliminary step, said Merkel’s spokesman.

At the same time, the German school system has been severely shaken. Former students at the secular Odenwaldschule in Hesse describe systematic abuse that continued until at least the 1990s. Eight former teachers, one of whom taught there until 2003, are the subject of serious allegations made by nearly three dozen former students.

Laid Him on the Bed

One former student says that he was only allowed to call his parents twice a week — and to do this, he had to use the phone in Gerold Becker’s bedroom. Becker was the school principal from 1971 to 1985. When the student was sad about the end of his telephone call, he says that Becker laid him on the bed, undressed him, touched the boy’s crotch, and then masturbated.

Another former student told of his fear of being the last one in the shower room with Becker after gym class. Yet another said that he was forced to engage in oral sex. “There was no way of avoiding them,” says Gerhard Roese, 48, who now lives in the German city of Darmstadt. He says that he was repeatedly forced to stimulate his music teacher’s genitalia with his hand. Distraught over the incidents, the boy confided in the school principal, but he only “smirked, hemmed and hawed, and said something about the Greeks,” says Roese.

Becker refuses to comment on the allegations. But questions have also been aimed at Hartmut von Hentig, 84, the doyen of Germany’s progressive education movement — and Becker’s long-time companion. Von Hentig has been pursued by journalists for days, he says. SPIEGEL was only able to submit questions to him in written form — and he faxed back his answers.

In his response, von Hentig warned against false allegations and underscored that so far, “statements have only been collected, they have not yet been verified.” He himself visited the boarding school on a number of occasions. Did he not find cause for suspicion?

“No,” he replied. When he stayed overnight at Odenwaldschule, he “usually” slept in the official guest room. “The only time I actually saw Gerold Becker interact with the boys and girls at the school was when we all took our meals together in the dining hall or when we walked across the school grounds, and they jumped up to him and he fended them off in a friendly manner: ‘You can see that I have a guest.'”

Part 2: Did the Pope Really Not Know?

Von Hentig doesn’t blame himself for not having noticed anything. “I of course observed constantly and very carefully: filled with envy of this man who managed to relate so well to children, to explain things to them, to divert their attention or patiently coax them in order to keep them from getting into some kind of mischief. Filled with envy of ‘his’ wonderful school.”

Why do those in positions of authority, including supervisors and witnesses, tend to have such difficulty getting to the bottom of these allegations, as is the case with von Hentig? Why are the state and the Church so helpless when it comes to the abuse of minors?

The Irish have demonstrated that it is possible to break through the wall of silence. For years, Yvonne Murphy, a judge acting at the behest of the government, headed an independent commission investigating how the Irish Roman Catholic Church handled complaints of clerical child sexual abuse.

Her report, released last November, concluded that “the vast majority (of priests) simply chose to turn a blind eye” to abuse.

‘No Concern for the Abused Child’

The commission also found that the Church failed to act internally and ignored its own rules relating to priests suspected of abusing children. “For many years offenders were neither persecuted nor made accountable within the Church,” the report says, citing an “obsessive concern with secrecy” and concluding that “there was little or no concern for the welfare of the abused child.”

In Germany, federal and state governments would still rather leave it up to the bishops to clear up the allegations, despite the fact that these patriarchs of the Church have not indicated that they are genuinely capable of tackling the issue. Many Catholic leaders see incidents of abuse as unfortunate isolated episodes — and not as a systemic problem.

Such an attitude disregards the fact that this has been a problem for the clergy right from the start — and throughout 2,000 years of church history. “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea,” it is written in the Gospel of Matthew. In his Epistles to the Corinthians, even Paul inveighed against “boy prostitutes” and “pederasts.”

Throughout the centuries, popes have threatened priests with punishment should they sexually abuse children. Such members of the clergy “shall be released from the priesthood or locked away to do penance in monasteries,” wrote Pope Alexander III (1159 to 1181). They should be “punished according to Church or state laws,” threatened Pope Leo X (1513 to 1521).

Despite these condemnations, Germany’s bishops today still tend to turn a blind eye to “pederasts” in the clergy.

A Number of Hurdles

To the German Catholic Church’s credit, however, Archbishop Zollitsch recently appointed the Bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, to look into abuse cases. Ackermann promptly received a flood of phone calls, letters and e-mails from alleged victims. Still, he faces hurdles before he can begin his work. The German Bishops’ Conference first has to decide where his office will be — in Trier or Bonn? How many staff members is he allowed to have? What kind of equipment? How large will his budget be?

Fundamentalist bishops like Gerhard Ludwig Müller from Regensburg would rather adopt a more confrontational approach. Müller accuses SPIEGEL of “abusing the freedom of the press” in its reports on the Church, and he says that the magazine “is guilty of violating the human dignity of all Catholic priests and members of the order.” He compares today’s “anti-Catholic media campaigns against celibacy and Catholic sexual morals” to the “infamous speech by the master of sedition held in Berlin’s Deutschlandhalle in 1937” — a reference to Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels’ attack on the Church. For Müller, in other words, critical reporting on the issue is far worse than the beating, rape and humiliation of children.

Meanwhile, new reports of horrendous abuse continue to pour in from his diocese — primarily from the Regensburger Domspatzen.

From 1953 to 1992, Monsignor Hans Meier ruled with an iron fist over generations of choirboys who were under his tutelage in the Etterzhausen boarding school, a preparatory school for younger pupils from which the choir draws its recruits.

Religious services were held three times a day. Afterwards, in rows of two, the young boys would march from the church to the dining hall. When mail was distributed, the boys were forced to stand lined up in rank and file, and they often received severe beatings.

‘Nothing that Merited My Attention’

Christian Wilbrand began attending the school at the age of nine in 1966. He recalls:

The idea was to shatter the personalities of us children. Brutality and our own fear were pervasive. Tortures included beatings with willow branches on the fingertips or the backside, punches to the head, pulling pupils up by their hair and hitting them with books. It didn’t take long to beat the childhood right out of us; I often felt like I was on the verge of dying. Once my homeroom teacher hurled me with such force against the blackboard that I lost consciousness. Etterzhausen was a planet of horrors.

Is it conceivable that Georg Ratzinger knew nothing about this? As director of the cathedral choir, he took in the children from the fifth grade up, who then lived in his boarding school in Regensburg. He says: “When we were on concert tours, pupils would tell me about what life had been like for them at Etterzhausen. But their stories didn’t strike me as anything that merited my official attention.”

In 1971, when Ratzinger had already been the choir director for seven years, a local priest was sentenced to 11 months in prison for sexual abuse. The man in question was both the institution’s music prefect and the head of the boarding school. Georg Ratzinger had an apartment in the building that housed the Domspatzen, and his brother Joseph often visited him there. Did they never hear anything about this case?

Former choirboy Mayer, who accompanied a large number of concert tours, says that he also witnessed widespread sexual and physical violence until he left the boarding school in 1992. He says that he himself was raped by older fellow students. Mayer also claims that anal sex took place between students on a number of occasions in a prefect’s apartment, right next to the rooms used by the senior classes. “They simply passed on the pressure of a totalitarian system,” he says.

Allegedly Knew Nothing

The Regensburg Diocese has refused to comment on any of the allegations — and Georg Ratzinger is now remaining silent as well.

And what of Benedict XVI? Publicly he has not uttered a single word about the allegations against his brother.

Indeed, he has still refrained from commenting on the cases dating back to his tenure as Archbishop of Munich. The priest Peter H. first came to the attention of the diocese in Essen after he forced an 11-year-old boy to engage in oral sex. He was sent to Munich for therapy. In 1980, as a member of the Diocese Council, Joseph Ratzinger was involved in a decision to grant Peter H. accommodations in a parsonage.

Shortly thereafter, the man was again involved in pastoral duties, with no restrictions whatsoever. In 1986, a court in Ebersberg gave H. an 18-month suspended prison sentence because he had once again sexually abused a minor, this time in the Bavarian town of Grafing.

H. was nevertheless reinstated and he held holiday services with children from the Heart of Jesus Daycare Center in Garching, and had numerous contacts with minors.

Just last Friday, he was scheduled to attend the ITB Berlin tourism trade show and take part in a panel discussion on “pilgrims’ paths, village churches and monastery vacations.” H. canceled at the last minute.

“Reassigning H. to pastoral ministry was a serious mistake. I take full responsibility,” says former Munich Vicar-General Gerhard Gruber.

The pope allegedly knew nothing about the entire case.

By Matthias Bartsch, Frank Hornig, Conny Neumann, Markus Verbeet and Peter Wensierski

Translated from the German by Paul Cohen


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

This timely and insightful St. Patrick’s day message is from my San Francisco Bay Area friend Jim Jenkins and was carried as an Op-Ed piece in the 3.16.2010 edition of the NSAC News.

* * *

A New St. Patrick?

by Jim Jenkins

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

There is now currently open speculation in the Irish media that Irish Catholicism may not survive its roiling crisis of faith engendered by the growing recognition that many Irish priests and bishops over decades have been complicit, if not actual predators, in the rape, sodomy, and exploitation of their children.

How far Irish Catholicism has fallen! Though historically one of Europe’s poorest and weakest countries, Ireland was always an unrivaled Catholic bastion of learning and devotion. Author Thomas Cahill (How the Irish Saved Western Civilization, 1995) rightly argues, with not a little Irish blarney, for the preeminent Celtic role in influencing the very development of the western civilization.

While protecting Irish national identity from centuries of British hegemony, the Irish church exported both catechism and education by sending priest and nuns, but mostly millions of immigrants to America, Australia, Africa, and Asia. Ireland’s economic poverty and famine was golden opportunity for almost everyone else.

As the troubles in Northern Ireland eased at the end of the 20th century, and the economic “Celtic Tiger” roared, Ireland proved not to be immune from the same secularizing winds that have swept over Europe since the end of WW2. The central, dominant force of the Catholic Church in Irish cultural life has ebbed and waned.

Of course, there is the broader European historical context in which these Celtic trends are embedded signifying that what is happening in Ireland is indeed endemic across the globe in Catholic communities.

Just in the last several weeks, we have seen the public awareness and outrage over the sexual exploitation of children by Catholic priests grow into wildfire proportions across European countries especially Germany, Netherlands and Austria.

The German media is now reporting a firestorm surrounding Benedict XVI’s own blood brother, Rev. Georg Ratzinger, caught up in allegations from thirty years ago or more of homoerotic and masochistic exploitation of children by priests in a boarding school the pope’s brother led for three decades.

There are calls from German citizen groups for investigations of Benedict’s time as archbishop of Munich in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Americans familiar with political corruption investigations know where this is going: “What did the pope know? And when did he know it?”

After decades at the center of the Vatican hierarchy, it is hard to imagine how Joseph Ratzinger is not fatally compromised himself. No wonder, Benedict’s own words following the extraordinary two-day synod of Irish bishops in Rome last month were so limp, so inadequate, so out-of-touch.

Who will rise up among the Celts like their patriarch St. Patrick to drive these modern snakes of clerical corruption from the Emerald Isle? Is that even feasible given the cultural, political and economic dynamics of modern Ireland? Should the Irish people be even looking for a cleric to lead them out of their betrayal and disillusionment?

For most of us the historical Patrick is shrouded in the mists of time and legend. Here in the U.S., Patrick has been churned through the cultural meat-grinder to the point where St. Patrick’s Day has become trivialized, secularized, and exploited for its commercial value.

It is hard to fathom how the mythic figure of Patrick could speak with a renewing and reforming voice today. That is not to say that Patrick’s story could not help shape the response of Irish Catholics, indeed all Christians, everywhere, to their abandonment and betrayal by their religious leaders.

Living in the 4th century, Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, was born in Scotland to Roman parents who were probably colonial officials assigned to Rome’s British province.
Some accounts have his family as Christian, with his father a deacon, and his grandfather a priest reflecting the historical customs of early centuries of Christianity in Rome. Indeed, two documents written (in Latin) attributed directly to Patrick survive evidencing his education and social status.

For sure, the turning point in Patrick’s life came at just age 14 when he was captured by Celtic raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland where he lived for six years, working as a herdsman.

Some accounts have it that Patrick was kept naked without clothing. Despite his suffering and trials, Patrick learned the Gaelic language, before escaping and returning to his family.

Like the fate of all slaves, it doesn’t take much to imagine that Patrick was terribly exploited, maybe even abused, by his captors. We do know that this experience was transforming for Patrick to where he eventually returned in the tradition of his father and grandfather to be the primal evangelizing Gaelic patriarch.

While we only have an incomplete and contested record available to us, much of which has passed over into myth, we know that Patrick was the first Christian leader, five centuries after the Christ, to preach against slavery. Not Jesus. Not Peter. Not Paul.

Patrick’s own experience of exploitation must have fired his conviction that the Irish people should be empowered to live in the freedom of a new ethos. I would suggest that nothing less is required today if the Catholic Church, in Ireland and indeed across the globe, is to endure, let alone survive.

Let’s not look for a new St Patrick among priests and bishops who by their silence and inaction are compromised, complicit and corrupt. What if we look among the Irish people for a new archetypal figure?

What if the transformation that the Irish church is presently undergoing is best embodied in one of their own brothers or sisters? What if the next St. Patrick was actually one of the survivors who for years have carried the very heavy cross of humiliation, abuse and exploitation in obscurity?

What if this survivor who, like Patrick, redeemed their experience of sexual abuse by leading all Catholics into a new dispensation in a new Peoples’ Church?

A Peoples’ Church WHERE THE PEOPLE DECIDE who is to be their bishops, their priests?

A Peoples’ Church where the liturgies and rituals celebrating their lives are governed and arranged by the very people living in the believing community and not some feudal clerical overlords beholding to foreign papal despots?

Isn’t it about time some new Patrick, a peoples’ prophet, maybe even a matriarch, once and for all drives the pernicious snakes of clericalism into the sea?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

James A. Jenkins, Ph.D. PSY 17650 268 Arlington Avenue Kensington, CA 94707 jjenkinsphd@earthlink.net 510.559.9963

BBC: Pressure on Irish Cardinal Sean Brady to resign mounts

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

From the BBC, 3.16.2010.
* * *

Pressure on Irish Cardinal Sean Brady to resign mounts

Cardinal Sean Brady

Cardinal Sean Brady said he was following bishops’ orders

The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland is facing further pressure to resign after he admitted knowing about the sexual abuse of two children.

Cardinal Sean Brady has said he was at meetings in 1975 where two abused children signed vows of silence over complaints against Fr Brendan Smyth.

The Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) said his position had become untenable.

TUV leader Jim Allister and Sinn Fein MLA Sue Ramsey have also said Cardinal Brady should consider stepping down.

The Irish Labour party said the police should investigate Cardinal Brady’s role in the internal church inquiry into Fr Smyth.

The party’s spokeswoman on social and family affairs, Roisin Shortall, said the cardinal was “hopelessly compromised by what had emerged”.

“I believe that there should be a Garda (Irish police) investigation to determine whether or not the failure to report Fr Smyth’s crimes to the civil authorities was, itself, a criminal offence,” she said.

Oath ‘offence’

“I am advised that the administering of an oath requiring these children not to disclose the abuse to anyone else may also have constituted an offence.”

Meanwhile, an Irish telephone helpline has recorded a significant increase in calls following the latest revelations about how the Catholic Church dealt with paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

The Rape Crisis Centre in Dublin said it had to bring in extra staff to cope with the rise in calls on Monday night.

Cardinal Brady was involved in investigating complaints of abuse in his capacity as secretary to the bishop of Kilmore.

The two children at the centre of the case are reported to have been aged 10 and 14 when the investigation took place in 1975.

Cardinal Brady said he believed the victims and in his limited role did all he could to make sure Fr Smyth was stopped from working as a priest.

He said it was not fair to judge him by the child protection standards of today.

He added that as a relatively junior cleric it was not his responsibility to report Smyth to the police and that he passed all relevant information to his superiors.

Smyth’s child abusing continued for many years after 1975.

The cardinal’s critics have rejected his explanations.

“Cardinal Brady is personally implicated in collusion with clerical child sexual abuse,” RCNI director Fiona Neary said.

“In recent public statements regarding clerical child abuse he did not make public his role in pressuring and bullying victims to remain silent. He did not make public his own failures to disclosure a known abuser to civil authorities.

Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict has had to deal with sex abuse scandals in various countries

“Sexual abuse that could have been prevented was not, and Brendan Smyth continued to abuse children.”

Not a resigning matter’

Writer and broadcaster Father Brian D’Arcy, who is a rector of the Passionist Monastery at the Graan in Enniskillen, said he believed Cardinal Brady was in a difficult position.

“I have this awful picture of two young children who had already been abused by a cleric in a Roman collar now having to tell that abuse to two or three different clerics taking notes and then being asked to solemnly swear that it would be secret.

“Now if Canon (church) law demands that, then Canon law is wrong.”

However, former Canon law professor, Monsignor Maurice Dooley, has also said Cardinal Brady was right not to have gone to Irish police with the allegations.

Monsignor Dooley said that as Fr Brady had been conducting in-camera investigation within the Church, he would have been violating his responsibilities if he had reported what he knew to the police.

Monsignor Dooley also said other, more senior people, people were responsible for the subsequent crimes of Fr Smyth.

The revelations come as the Catholic Church worldwide grapples with accusations that it covered up abuse by priests.

In recent months paedophile scandals have rocked the church in Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria and Germany.