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Bishops marked tardy

A dog ate the bishops’ homework.

Most of the bishops’ conferences around the world have missed a Vatican deadline on drawing up anti-abuse guidelines, it emerged yesterday.

But Mgr Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s top investigator of clerical sex abuse, said that without counting Africa “more than half of the conferences responded” to the May deadline.

Or even better, you just decide not to count any of the late ones, and that way you can say all the conferences responded to the deadline. Dropping all of Africa just to get to more than half seems inefficient.

More than 4,000 cases of sexual abuse have been reported to the doctrinal office over the past decade, the office reported earlier this year. Cardinal William Levada, former prefect of the CDF, said those cases revealed that an exclusively canonical response to the crisis had been inadequate and that a multifaceted and more pro-active approach by all bishops and religious orders was needed.

Ahhh that’s a tactful way of putting it. A less tactful way of putting it would be to say that trying to deal with child rape by hiding it from the police was both criminal and immoral. (I love the idea that actually informing the police of the rape of children by employees is a “multifaceted and more pro-active approach” – it makes it sound like a motivational meeting, or a retreat to a spirit lodge with sauna attached.)

Bishops’ conferences have been encouraged to develop “effective, quick, articulated, complete and decisive plans for the protection of children”, bringing perpetrators to justice and assisting victims, “including in countries where the problem has not manifested itself in as dramatic a way as in others”, the Vatican said in November 2010.

Bishops’ conferences have been encouraged to do what they should have been doing all along and treat crimes as crimes, assault as assault, child rape as child rape. Golly gosh gee wow, how impressive.

 

Comments

  1. Beatrice says

    Evaluating each country’s proposed policies and guidelines for dealing with cases of clerical sexual abuse of minors will take “at least a year”, and that process will not begin until after the summer, he said.

    Guidelines? Here’s a guideline for him: report the abuser to the police. If you have evidence, give it to the police. Don’t hide or relocate the abuser.
    See, that wasn’t so hard and it took me significantly less than a year to come up with it.

  2. Brad says

    400 a year. And that’s only the ones that were reported. How many more weren’t reported by bishops who learned their lesson from Darth Popetine and covered for the rapists?

  3. says

    I don’t get it. Why does each conference have to draw up their own policy? Why not just draw up one policy and apply it to all? Or even a template that can be tweaked to local conditions?

  4. Alverant says

    @Dean
    Because that would make too much sense and be too easy to do. My guess is that the “official” reason is because local laws vary so much that you can’t make an effective template (even though “report all instances to the local authorities immediately” covers things pretty well IMHO).

    Would it be out of line to say that anyone who supports the RCC is supporting a criminal child abuse organization?

  5. says

    “Bishops’ conferences have been encouraged to develop “effective, quick, articulated, complete and decisive plans for the protection of children”, bringing perpetrators to justice and assisting victims,”

    Notice the very persuasive language employed to give the impression that they’re doing everything speedily and efficiently to put in place guidelines that should have been in place when the scandal of sexual abuse of minors came to the fore years ago. Or, to be more precise, a half a century ago.

    The dog certainly needs to chew on those red Pontiff slippers when he’s finished with the homework, to firmly put a stop to the Pontiff’s foot-dragging and pontification.

  6. Erp says

    Actually in some countries one might fear the state authorities would react inappropriately: the accused is Catholic, he’s guilty by definition or, at the other extreme, the church can do no wrong or our local priest can do no wrong. In either case the victim might be labelled by the police as a sodomite or a whore (depending on sex) and become a pariah or worst (think of those places which have executed rape victims for adultery or force them to marry their rapist). Also in some countries certain types of abuse might not be a illegal (e.g., using psychological pressure to coerce a woman over the age of consent [which could be as young as 13] to have sex in places where the legal definition of rape requires physical coercion). Turing over to the police wouldn’t work, but, something to help the known victims and stop the culprit is still needed.

    This does not excuse the delays but does explain in part why different countries may require different policies.

  7. says

    “…the church can do no wrong or our local priest can do no wrong..”

    Sadly – that sort of mentality prevails in Ireland, especially in rural parts, where the clergy (what’s left of them, anyway) are still the beating heart of the community. The congregants mostly see no evil and hear no evil when they look out through the valley of the squinting windows.

  8. says

    Alverant asks, “Would it be out of line to say that anyone who supports the RCC is supporting a criminal child abuse organization?”

    It certainly wouldn’t be out of line; in fact it would be 100% accurate.

    In the comment section of the article Ophelia links to there is a comment from Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal who screams (he uses all caps), Take note, please, all those who say that Pope Benedict is not doing anything about child sex abuse.

    I have a question for Poovathinkal: if “More than 4,000 cases of sexual abuse have been reported to the doctrinal office over the past decade,” and Benedict was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for 3 years and pope for 7 years during that decade, why has it taken him so long to do something/anything about child sex abuse?

  9. says

    “…why has it taken him so long to do something/anything about child sex abuse?…”

    VS: You’ve got to remember that it wasn’t all that very long ago when the church declared that it couldn’t comprehend the meaning of paedophilia. Well – that’s according to evidence given by the religious to the commission to inquire into child institutional abuse (CICA). It clearly understood abuse of clergy vs. adults, then, but no – not abuse of children, despite clergy being quietly given instructions from on high, on how to proceed when confronted by said abuse of minors. So, you’ve got to forgive them for they are now only slowly latching on to the fact that they cannot any longer get away with their stalling antics and have to do something considering the thousands of child abuse cases that have come to their attention. (Only god knows about the ones that haven’t got a hearing.

  10. Paul W., OM says

    From the linked article:

    While the result is gratifying, Mgr Scicluna said in the interview, Africa “has a particular situation with great difficulty in Church structures”, presumably referring to the lack of needed communications and other infrastructure that help a nation’s bishops draw up national policies.

    That wouldn’t have been my guess as to the “great difficulty.”

    I have to wonder if it’s partly about the prevalence of the abuse of nuns, as opposed to children, in Africa—especially AIDS-ridden countries in mostly subsaharan Africa, where heterosexual priests have largely stopped going to prostitutes and use nuns as whores or concubines instead

    As I understand it, it’s pretty common in some African countries that poor orphan girls are taken into nunneries, only to become defacto whores, because they have no other options and are easily coerced.

    But Erp @6 makes a good point. There are countries in which it makes a lot of sense to hide some crimes from the police.

    For example, a helpless orphan girl who’s coerced into becoming a nun-whore would likely be imprisoned or put to death for adultery.

    And in some countries, the Church has a legitimate fear of enraged mobs attacking innocent priests and nuns—maybe muslims, or kooky protestant fundies of the witch-hunting type, or maybe even just pissed off Catholics.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think such legitimate fears are the Church’s primary motivation for dragging their feet, i.e., continuing to cover up abuses. I think their primary concern—still enshrined in canon law, as I understand it—is to protect the reputation of the Church from scandal that would “damage” people’s faith.

  11. Paul W., OM says

    Also from the linked article, with my emphasis:

    More than 4,000 cases of sexual abuse have been reported to the doctrinal office over the past decade, the office reported earlier this year. Cardinal William Levada, former prefect of the CDF, said those cases revealed that an exclusively canonical response to the crisis had been inadequate and that a multifaceted and more pro-active approach by all bishops and religious orders was needed.

    What does this mean? I suspect it means something non-obvious, and that the former prefect (of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly the office of the Inquisition, Pope Ratzi’s old job) is saying something very important and true here.

    AFAIK, canon law still says that the Prime Directive is Cover Our Institutional Ass—bringing pedophiles to justice and protecting innocent kids are secondary to protecting the Church’s reputation, by canon law.

    Until that changes, the Church will not and cannot actually be proactive and protective in cases where admitting abuses would cause “grave scandal” that would “damage” Catholics’ faith.

    Because that’s the usual case. This shit is gravely scandalous and quite damaging.

    That’s canon law, grounded in basic Catholic theology. Catholocism is supposed to be the most important institution in the world, by far, and its laws are supposed to take precedence over merely civil law.

    The upshot is that no matter what they say about being open and proactive, that’s mostly cancelled by the Prime Directive, unless and until they say the Prime Direcive is void.

    Which I don’t think they have, or ever will. They basically can’t.

    For good reasons as well as very bad ones, the Church can’t simply roll over and hand all known criminals over to civil authorities in every case—in many cases where the law is unjust or the authorities are corrupt, it would be immoral. (Consider offering sanctuary to political “criminals,” hiding them from death squads or hanging judges.)

    The upshot is that the “legal” situation hasn’t changed much, and doesn’t look like it ever will. It’s only allowable to hand criminals over to the civil authorities if the resulting scandal is likely to be less damaging to the Church than the coverup is likely to be.

    If you can cover it up, you must cover it up. That’s the law.

    Nobody but the Pope and Cardinals can change that.

    And the only thing anybody outside the Church can do is to make coverups more damaging than the scandals you get from not covering things up—civil authorities must treat the church as a systematic criminal conspiracy, in conflict with civil law at its very root.

    In canon law, the church explicitly commands civil disobedience about such things, to protect the Church’s all-important reputation.

    That’s not a secret. It just doesn’t get much press. It should get a lot of press, because it’s the root of the problem and it clearly isn’t going away.

    Unfortunately canon law is written in Latin, and few people can even read and understand it who aren’t themselves part of the Catholic establishment. (Almost nobody understands Latin anymore, except priests, and almost all experts on Canon law are within the institution and committed to it.)

    That allows the Church to mistranslate and misrepresent the issues, glossing over the fundamental conflict between canon law and reform. They can pretend it’s about this and that difficult detail, and varied circumstances in different countries, when what it’s really about is the Church being radically self-serving, on basic theological principle, because it’s supposedly the most valuable thing in the world—the light and hope of the world—and its ends explicitly justify practically any criminal means.

    It’s all very simple in that sense. It’s complicated in another, though.

    For the Church to really reform itself, without ceding all moral authority to local civil authorities, it would have to be explicit about when and how it will violate which laws, and where.

    E.g., in most first-world countries, they could choose to trust the civil authorities not to execute pedophile priests, or to unduly crack down on innocent priests because of them.

    In other countries, they probably can’t do that. They can’t explicitly tell, say, a radical Islamist government they’re going to harbor pedophiles or orphan girl nuns who’ve been sexually enslaved by priests, and cover up their “crimes,” because that in itself would give the government a popular pretext for cracking down on the Church in pretty much any way it wants.

    So I predict that the Church will continue to do what it has been doing—make some half-hearted efforts at reform, cover up what it thinks it can cover up, and never spell out when and where it insists on the right to harbor criminals and cover up their crimes. (Both political criminals who are innocent of anything that should be a crime, such as sexually enslaved nuns, and other criminals whose punishment is likely to be too extreme, or cause too much backlash against the church.)

    I predict that the Church will continue tsk at the bishops who are “dragging their feet,” while making them fully aware, behind the scenes, that they’d damned well better keep dragging their feet—and damned well better keep obfuscating what this is all really about.

    The Church doesn’t have a way out of this, short of profound reform that it is very, very unlikely to undertake. It’s all the more unlikely because there would really be some major negative consequences by almost anybody’s standards. (E.g, government crackdowns or unruly mobs attacking the innocent as well as the guilty.)

  12. says

    From the article:

    He said that all those who did not send in their proposed guidelines would be getting “a letter of reminder”.

    The seriousness of the problem isn’t enough of a reminder to the people who are supposed to be drawing up these guidelines?

  13. Paul W., OM says

    The seriousness of the problem isn’t enough of a reminder to the people who are supposed to be drawing up these guidelines?

    No, because the Vatican has explicitly vetoed the guidelines that contain violations of canon law, and any reforms must conform to canon law.

    E.g. the Irish Bishops were told that their proposed reforms were all very nice but clearly illegal under canon law, and to try again. (With no guidance as to how to modify their reforms to be legal, without utterly gutting them.)

    The open secret is that no serious reforms can be consistent with canon law. Canon law must be rewritten in major ways to allow any serious reforms.

    The bishops are being given a patently insoluble problem—it’s quite obvious to them it’s insoluble, but not to the general public, and that’s what’s important—and then publicly chided for failing to solve it; they are clearly expected not to say that in public. They are expected to knuckle under and pretend that they are failing to do what the Vatican really wants, when in fact the Vatican is absolutely setting them up to fail (because that’s exactly what the Vatican wants) over and over again.

    The actually important Vatican reminders are the reminders that they must follow canon law, period, sometimes generally and sometimes with respect to specific issues, which means IIRC that

    1) they must continue to always prioritize the reputation of the church over preventing child abuse, i.e., prevent grave scandal if they think they can get away with it,

    2) they must not ever report child confessed abusers for crimes revealed in Catholic confession—the only place a molesting priest is likely to admit anything

    3) they must keep canonical court proceedings and many of their conclusions secret from the civil authorities,

    4) they must mislead or lie to police, and perjure themselves in civil courts, as necessary, in order to scrupulously obey 1-3,

    5) in such cases, it’s not a lie if you omit or mislead, even if you know and intend that the hearer believe something false. But as necessary, lie outright, in keeping with 1, and it’s not a sin because the ends justify the means.

    6) they must get explicit approval from the Vatican to hand any priest over to the civil authorities rather than the canonical courts, or to do any of several other substantive things—approval which the Vatican is generally quite unlikely to give, except in rare, desperate cases where it judges the fallout of getting caught to be likely worse than the admission of priests’ and bishops’ wrongdoings. (And the Vatican is consistently willing to gamble on a coverup until it is both caught red-handed and assailed in the popular press or subjected to major civil sanctions.)

    Meanwhile, the Vatican maintains the utterly ridiculous legal fiction that the bishops are not their employees, and that the Vatican is in no way legally responsible for anything the Bishops do or fail to do, because the dioceses are inbependent entities, neither owned nor controlled by the Vatican. That’s despite the fact that they hire, fire, and promote Bishops in accordance with how well they follow the canon laws which the Vatican merely “reminds them” that they are “obliged” to follow.

    Those somehow “aren’t orders” to employees or even contractors, or anyone who is in any significant sense controlled; they’re merely “reminders” of what canon law (written by the Vatican, of course) binds them to do, on pain of losing their jobs, etc.

    And of course the Vatican consistently rewards bishops who scrupulously follow their non-orders, as they’re reminded by the Vatican to do, by covering up crimes, e.g., promoted to cushy high-status jobs in the Vatican to prevent their arrest, trial, and imprisonment by the civil authorities.

    Neat how that all works, huh?

    I find it very disturbing how little press these basic issues get in the mainstream press, and how most reporting is so superficial that you have no fucking idea what’s really going on in all the he said / she said tidbits, many of which are carefully crafted to preserve the illusion that the Vatican is pushing the bishops for reform, when it is quite clearly doing exactly the opposite.

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