May 29 2013

An obsession with permanence and secrecy

The next few months may prove to be very interesting — and damning — for the Catholic Church. The courts are poised to crack open a huge trove of church files, files that document the worst behavior of some of its priests, from child rape to murder. This facet of Catholic culture which insists on preserving every record, which was historically useful in preserving records of the past, is about to bite them in the butt, hard.

Why did the church hold on to decades-old evidence of its priests’ sins?

The explanation lies in centuries of Catholic Church history and is a tale involving secret betrothals, scandal, even a murder or two. Since the time of the Enlightenment, the Catholic Church has maintained two sets of records: one for the mundane and a second "secret archive" for matters of a sensitive nature. The cache — known as sub secreto files, Canon 489 files, confidential files or C-files — was to be kept under lock and key, only for the eyes of the bishop and his trusted few.

After the files became known to prosecutors and plaintiff’s lawyers, the American justice system has pried open the doors to an archive long kept sealed. Thousands of additional pages are set to become public in coming months, as more than a dozen Catholic orders — Salesians, Claretians, Vincentians and others — prepare to bare their own secrets pursuant to agreements with victims. L.A. County Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias could set the date for their release at a hearing Tuesday.

We may be about to get something as electrifying to the US as the Cloyne report was to Ireland. Poor Bill Donohue is going to be wearing out his fax machine.


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  1. 1
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    Sweet, sweet schadenfreude.

  2. 2

    It is good that the sins are at last seeing the light of day but don’t gloat too much. Remember this is a story of human lives damaged or destroyed by sanctified corruption.

  3. 3

    This is entirely from memory so I’ve probably garbled or conflated or even just imagined parts or all, but— In the Irish case, (1) The Raping Children Cult dropped its opposition to the report only after extracting the a promise there would be no names (or other means of identifying the culprits?); and (2) Wasn’t there a “deal” of some sort on damages (i.e., wouldn’t have to pay anything or just a token amount or something similar-ish…?).

    (Apologies for not doing some fact-checking beforehand, I’m a bit preoccupied (and procrastinating) at the moment…)

  4. 4

    I admire the American process of publishing that stuff. In Germany, the last time the Church agreed to let someone see their files, the results turned out to be so unwelcome that they simply rescinded their invitation and the independant researcher had to hand the files back and cease his investigation. http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/gesellschaft/christian-pfeiffer-spricht-im-interview-ueber-den-streit-mit-der-kirche-a-878441.html
    They even sent him an injunction to make him shut up.
    Our prosecution apparently has no spine to go in and seize the files. But whether they’re just fearful or really have no legal means for this, either way they won’t be allowed to make such records public. I predict that under any circumstances, the only things we’ll keep hearing about are clerics who did this or that some decades ago and who are too old or too dead to be arrested. It’ll keep going that way in coming decades.
    Despite the jubilee about the new Pope and all the “great things” he said – people already assert that he’s so much better than the old one, but has he actually done anything yet? – the organization and all the internal hierarchy and attitude remains unchanged.
    If anything remarkable comes out, it won’t faze the vast majority of its members. After a short-lived spike in secession numbers, the further decline will probably maintain the same rate, as European countries showed. Good, but not super.

  5. 5

    I’m not going to hold my breath on this one either. I seem to remember that the Church was required to hand over records earlier, but what was released was so heavily redacted that they completely useless. I think there was dispute as to whether the Church actually handed over everything in even that case, as ordered by court.

  6. 6

    If the various dioces and orders have been keeping two sets of books, how much would you like to bet that the Jesuits (AKA Vatican Intelligence) and the Vatican itself have at least three?

  7. 7

    In the pages were not only Wempe’s abuses, but the blunt words of church leaders who clearly thought no one outside the church would ever read the secret file. There were mentions of the criminal implications of Wempe’s acts and how to keep the police from finding out.

    I’m not sure there are bolds bold enough.

    What I bet is going to happen is that this systemic problem is going to be treated like one bad apple (keeping in mind the bad apple is a fucking rapist of children) spoiling the pure driven slush of the church. Even if it serves to indict the Catholic church in the U.S. (it won’t), every other denomination and institution will keep getting to hang out, unimpeded in their abuses.

  8. 8

    If the files are released it will be interesting to see how many Catholics decide they are now fed up with the Catholic Church and leave, “cultural Catholicism” be damned. I’ve heard some of them describe religious faith as being like “believing a Loved One is innocent, even when everyone else says they are guilty.” Such analogies always presume, however, that the Loved One is, in fact, innocent … and you stood loyally by their side to your ultimate moral credit.

    But in real life that can’t be assumed: at some point the evidence ought to cause you to abandon your loving commitment and face facts. How much will it take to convince the Catholics that no, this isn’t a few bad apples and some naive administrators with good intentions? It’s corruption and cover-up entrenched into the system.

    Hell, it IS the system. What did they think would happen when their minds are prepared to keep faith in faith, no matter what, by authorities who claim to be the mouthpiece for God?

  9. 9

    Tone policed already! Nice!

    I will sure as shit gloat. That has nothing to do with disrespecting victims. It has everything to do to finally taking this arrogant, “we are above the law and better than everyone else” attitude and shoving it in their faces.

    This entire issue is about them claiming to be above the rule of law. Do they have to turn over documents? Do they have to report rapists? Do they have to refrain from aiding and abetting? Should they avoid being accessories after the fact? Should they refuse to participate in conspiracies to commit?

    Yes. I love seeing them fall flat on their faces trying to make what should be the most laughable arguments that have somehow worked since the early 2000′s and these issues first broke nationally.

    How someone sees this glee at the RCC getting theirs and being brought down a peg, TO OUR LEVEL, as gloating at the victims expense mystifies me. I guess the main point is that someone, somewhere has to push back against those of us who are fighting the church on this. So rude. We are so very rude.

  10. 10

    A church which promotes the doctrine of original sin shouldn’t get to use the “bad apple” defence.

  11. 11
    David Marjanović

    Gives a whole new meaning to fiat iustitia, ruat caelum.



    And I didn’t even know about this, even though it’s from January.

    If the various dioces [sic] and orders have been keeping two sets of books, how much would you like to bet that the Jesuits (AKA Vatican Intelligence) and the Vatican itself have at least three?

    Given the complicated history they have with each other, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it turned out they have books they’ve been keeping from each other.

    the pure driven slush of the church

    + 1

    If the files are released it will be interesting to see how many Catholics decide they are now fed up with the Catholic Church and leave, “cultural Catholicism” be damned. I’ve heard some of them describe religious faith as being like “believing a Loved One is innocent, even when everyone else says they are guilty.”

    That’s not an attitude I have encountered. I’ve encountered:

    1) the organization isn’t the faith – the organization being a mafia doesn’t make the faith any less true, that’d be an argumentum ad hominem vel organisationem;

    2) sure, the diocese of Boston is a mafia, but not ours; sure, ours is at the top level, but our parish priest is innocent; sure, the priest of the parish we used to go to is criminal, but we’ve been going to another parish for years now because he’s too conservative for our taste anyway.

  12. 12
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    Seconding barbyau @#9

  13. 13
    Pierce R. Butler

    Any chance any of this will include those long-concealed papers from the Weimar/WWII/Pius XI-XII era?

    Even Moscow has opened up their files from that time, for crysake…

  14. 14
    Azuma Hazuki

    As a natal Catholic, this hits closer to home and is more therapeutic for me than most.

    Burn, fuckers. I hope the entire corrupt institution crumbles from the inside out. 1700 years! 1700 years of corruption and ignorance and twisting the doctrine! 1700 years of constant documentary forgery, coverups, whoring out the best impulses among you, corrupting the original Greek and Aramaic of the texts, politicizing the choice of canon, destroying ethics and morals and human decency, theft, greed, extortion, torture, rape, murder, warfare, genocide!

    May the screams of torture victims and the sobs of desolate mothers follow you all for eternity! Burn!

  15. 15
    David Marjanović

    Even Moscow has opened up their files from that time, for crysake…

    Communism has broken down. Catholicism has not.

    Burn, fuckers. I hope the entire corrupt institution crumbles from the inside out.

    Ruat caelum.

    twisting the doctrine

    The doctrine was twisted into existence in the first place…

    BTW, I’ve replied to you on the thread about reality constraining the possibilities.

  16. 16
    Bronze Dog

    I’m glad these records exist to be cracked open. My biggest hope is that there’ll be a growing international investigation to crack them all open and show the world hard evidence from the church’s own records that yes, the crime really is as big, systematic, entrenched, and ongoing as we say it is. Leave no room for the usual apologetics, rationalization, and minimization. Then put the conspirators and rapists on trial in exactly the same manner they would be if they weren’t priests.

  17. 17

    the corruption of the coverup and abetting of sexual abuse is but the icing on the cake. It is the result of the structure of a church, an organized structure with the purpose of maintaining the belief that a made up story is the “real truth”.
    Without the imposition of sanctions and punishments both real and imaginary to control and coerce people the stories would undergo constant change in content, structure and purpose as well as pass out of current usage and be forgotten.
    The corruption starts with those who elect to do the promotion of the stories. At some level they know that they are not real and at the same time fear drives them to deny the doubt and continue to profess. They have been forced to adopt the ravings of the emotionally disturbed in support of this enterprise over the centuries. To try and adopt and justify irrationality with belief in magic.

    the one thing that is a true statement about this world on earth from there behavior is proven that live on earth is sinful and corrupt. The only salvation we need is to be saved from them!

    uncle frogy

  18. 18

    First reaction: great news, this is a victory for victims (if in fact the Church complies) and the more light of day this rotten culture sees the better.
    Second reaction: I hope that the Church doesn’t see this as a reason to stop documenting and keeping records as a way to continue the status quo.

  19. 19

    And what of crimes they intentionally if not studiously did not record?

  20. 20
    Azuma Hazuki

    @15/David M.

    And I replied, though I’m not sure it was a good idea. It seems like I’m only partially grasping the physics needed to make my ideas coherent, and would welcome answers from those who know better.

    ruat caelum

    Indeed, “Fiat justitia ruat caelum.” For it is not heaven if it is not just. May the workers of injustice perish, and their blasphemous, Lovecraftian abomination of a God-concept with them. May they perish from the earth.

  21. 21

    Communism didn’t collapse. It mired itself in debt, sold itself off then grabbed it all back and corporatized it. Where else did the Wall Street banks get their inspiration.

  22. 22

    not only that, but aren’t there still about 2 billion people under communist rule?

  23. 23

    Can’t help but think of the meticulous records the Germans kept of the Holocaust. Perhaps a similar arrogance to think that their deeds, good or despicable, would be of interest to the future. Of course, they were right about that interest, but not quite they way they thought it would work. Tough. May the last one out of the cathedral please turn out the lights.

  24. 24
    Azuma Hazuki

    May the last one out of the cathedral please turn out the lights.

    He’s gonna have to put the lights out by using stop-drop-and-roll if I have anything to say about it. Now that I’m finally free of the psychic damage those dogmas caused, the fear has turned to anger. I can’t imagine how to make them suffer enough for what they’ve done over the last 1700 years.

  25. 25

    I hate to be the wet blanket in this case, but — The die-hard adherents to the RCC will indeed claim that what went on was Man’s Fault and not God’s. This will of course allow them to blithely go on carrying their stinkpots and throwing water on people, all for the good of Jesus.
    Still, I’m glad it’s all coming out. Perhaps some few will actually see that it’s not The Church that’s the problem, but God, the imaginary all-seeing illusion.

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