Posted on Sunday, December 6th, 2009 at 4:45 pm
Author: Feature Writer
Gc contributor: Mór Rígan
Matthew 16:19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.
Working for an organisation can inspire loyalty. You defend the policies, because you believe in them. You minimise whatever failings you fins out about and cover up a few mistakes. You invest your time and effort into being the best worker you can. Then you find out that the organisation is not perfect. Maybe it dumps toxic waste into the ocean or uses slave labour. At what point do you blow the whistle? At what point do you resign in protest?
The analogy is not perfect, but neither is the reaction of the Catholic Church to accusations of child sexual abuse. As a reference point, Vatican II (Second Vatican Counsel) marks the modern Catholic Church – a handy milestone for an ancient organisation. Did the latter day cover ups start with Pope John Paul II or was his refusal to permit the defrocking of paedophile priests only the latest deception? In 1989, the pontiff was determined to give priests every chance to repent. In Ireland, this policy led inexorably to repeat child sexual abuse. In many cases, the cycle was repeated for decades.
It is difficult to square the circle on the issue of the active cover up of child sexual abuse, not only in the Dublin Archdiocese but also that which happened under instruction from the Pope. After all, the Catholic Church claims to preach the Word of God.
The Word of God contains concepts such as love, forgiveness, compassion and respect. By refusing to defrock and expose paedophile priests, was the pope showing compassion for the child survivors? Or was he fighting a great war and decided that he needed everybody, no matter what sins they had committed, to help stem the tide of secular humanism? Which of these aims respected the Word of God? In Luke 18:15-17, Jesus Christ is mentioned as stating:
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
That seems pretty clear, but difficulty arises as the doctrine of the modern church bears little resemblance to the Word of God. It is easy to point a finger and say “hypocrite,” but a certain power structure arises from language and words. The Pope, I would like to remind you, is more than Christ’s representative on earth. According to Catholic dogma, the Pope speaks in the name of Christ:
“The one sent by the Lord does not speak and act on his own authority, but by virtue of Christ’s authority; not as a member of the community, but speaking to it in the name of Christ… authorized and empowered by Christ.” [source]
The power comes from the name of Christ the Saviour. The power is given to the Church by its adherents. And once given, power is difficult to take back. Was Benedict speaking in the name of Christ in 2002 with Ad Exequandam Ecclesiastica Legem, the papal instruction on paedophile priests? Of course not. Benedict speaks for the structure and the power. ‘Cover it up’ is the urgent subtext. In the letter, he invokes pontifical secret in regard to these cases, essentially instructing bishops not to go to local law enforcement.
“This letter reminded them of the strict penalties facing those who revealed confidential details concerning enquiries into allegations against priests of certain grave ecclesiastical crimes, including sexual abuse, which were reserved to the jurisdiction of the Congregation. The letter extended the prescription or statute of limitations for these crimes to ten years. However, when the crime is sexual abuse of a minor, the prescription begins to run from the day on that which the minor completes the eighteenth year of age.” [source]
Never were the Irish bishops more grateful for such instruction. They had a built-in excuse — they were only following orders! Shades of this trope have appeared in some media over the past week but it is not a popular excuse.
In fact, there had been correspondence between Rome and Dublin with regard to a number of complaints during the period in question. The Commission of Investigation into Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin wrote to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome and requested information on the status of Crimen Sollicitationis (a papal document on the sexual abuse of children), and any information that had been sent by the Archdiocese of Dublin to Rome at the time the complaints were recorded. No information was ever received.
However, the Congregation contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs to complain that the Commission did not go through appropriate diplomatic channels. As far as Rome is concerned, the letter of the law is more important than the spirit of the law or that of compassion for the survivors of clerical sexual abuse. The fact that the Commission was independent of state interference, especially since the mandate of the Commission included an investigation of the state’s role, seems to have been lost on the Congregation.
Thwarted by Rome, the Commission sent a letter to the Papal Nuncio in 2007, requesting any relevant documentation he possessed on the Commission’s terms of reference. The Nuncio has two distinct roles. He is the diplomatic representative of the Holy See in Ireland and he is the papal legate to the island of Ireland. The letter requested a response even if the Nuncio did not have documentation. No answer was received. In 2009, the Commission again wrote to the Nuncio, providing him with sections of the draft report referring to his role. Again, he did not deign to acknowledge the correspondence.
Since the publication of the report, the Nuncio has obfuscated and misled the public by confusing the roles he plays. The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) has compounded that obfuscation by defending the position of the Vatican, through a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the Nuncio. Indeed, all indications are that the Vatican is blithely unconcerned with the revelations. Paddy Agnew of the Irish Times writes:
No one in the Holy See is saying it, but there is every reason to believe that the Vatican is greatly relieved that the report has failed to generate the sort of international publicity that would give oxygen to sustained negative worldwide coverage. Just another Irish sex-abuse scandal, then?
Just another Irish sex-abuse scandal. One that demonstrates collusion and cover-up at the highest levels of the Catholic Church. Does that not shake the position of the church? Are Catholics fed up with religious scandals? Whatever one’s opinions of the Catholic Church in a particular country, knowing that the current and previous Popes colluded with the cover-up, is surely shocking. I’m quite sure that “suffer the little children to come to me” does not allude to molestation.
I wonder why Catholics continue to accept the preaching, teaching and judging of rapists, paedophiles and their protectors. I also wonder why the good priests do not resign in protest.
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