Pope should endorse independent investigation
By Gerald T. Slevin
The expanding abuse crisis requires immediate action by Catholics. It is needed to invigorate their dispirited Church for the sake of defenseless children, disrespected women, disheartened clergy and disillusioned Catholics everywhere. The repeated worldwide pattern in too many child abuse cases leads to a central source that honest Catholics must now sadly acknowledge. The Church’s hierarchy for much too long has been unwilling to act responsively on urgent issues. The hierarchy has lost much of its credibility.
Much careful analysis already exists on potential solutions. Catholics must now choose and act on these solutions. Concerned Catholics are calling for the pope to set up promptly a commission of informed Catholic lay women and men, nuns and priests, both young and old, married and single. The commission would include persons from around the world knowledgeable in relevant areas, including scripture, theology, church history, psychology and law. The commission idea was proposed as a solution recently at NJ.Com by the distinguished Jesuit, Fr. Raymond Schroth.
Fr. Schroth has served as a dean or professor at five Catholic universities, as well as at New York University. He is well versed in theology and church history. This 12- person commission would review, and by majority vote recommend to the pope, necessary changes in the Catholic Church’s governance structure and its policies on human sexuality and gender, including mandatory celibacy and women priests. The pope has already been requested by me on behalf of many Catholics worldwide to set up this commission with independent and worldwide representation so that it can begin its work promptly and end the existing gridlock in Rome.
If the pope does not do this, concerned Catholics are expected then to set up the commission themselves and invite the pope to appoint two observers. The commission would be expected to accept by e-mail serious comments from all people. The commission would by August make its public recommendations for papal action and implementation by October. If papal action is not forthcoming by then, the commission would be expected to request the pope and bishops to call for an ecumenical council (Vatican III) to begin in November and to complete its work by mid-December. If neither the pope nor the council act timely, interested Catholics are expected by grassroots efforts continually to call upon their fellow Catholics worldwide to urge the pope and the bishops to adopt the commissions’ recommendations promptly.
These efforts, if necessary, are expected to include (a) media announcements and interviews, (b) direct lobbying of bishops, of major group and large individual contributors to the Vatican and the bishops worldwide, and of other Catholic interest groups, (c) appropriate public demonstrations at select key Church events worldwide, (d) calls for the withholding by all Catholics worldwide of contributions to the bishops and the Vatican, and (e) calls for all relevant governments, for example in Germany, to end all governmental subsidy payments to the Catholic Church. While Catholics will be expected to continue to support their local parishes and the Church’s health, social welfare and educational institutions, Catholics worldwide are expected to be called upon to curtail contributions intended for the Church’s hierarchy, until the commissions’ recommendations are implemented.
If the hierarchy fails to act timely, I believe all Catholics will have a clear moral obligation to support these grassroots efforts. The Gospels call upon all Catholics to protect defenseless children. Since 1990, several billion dollars of Catholics’ contributions have been diverted from advancing the Gospel to expenditures related to child abusers and those who wrongfully covered up their serious crimes, rather than primarily to addressing the child abuse problems openly, effectively and honestly. Unless this commission action is taken, these abuse expenditures can be expected to continue worldwide at high levels into the foreseeable future. For example, reports of child abuse cases are currently skyrocketing in Germany, the pope’s home country. Catholics can no longer avoid the painful truth being reported daily that their contributions are continuously being used to enable the cancer of child abuse to exist in order apparently to protect the power and positions of the hierarchy mainly. To date, no bishop has really been penalized for misconduct related to clerical child abuse. When compelling evidence of bishop misconduct has been presented, the bishops have generally been able to move into a comfortable retirement or moved to another position. Perhaps, this should not be so surprising. The Vatican is dependent on bishops for significant financial support and on voting cardinal bishops for desired political support at the next papal election, which may not be long in coming. Many Catholics want to change this unfair and counterproductive policy that fails to hold bishops accountable. Child abuse prevention programs cannot reasonably be expected to be successful, if supervising culprits, like bad bishops, are not penalized.
Many thousands of defenseless children and their families have for decades suffered from Catholic clerical child abuse. Many continue to suffer painfully. Millions of Catholics have left the Church reluctantly and dejectedly in frustration, taking their contributions with them. Recent polls indicate that millions of Catholics worldwide who remain are becoming increasingly disillusioned and many are considering leaving. Many Catholics want the Church to return to the loving spirit of the Gospels such as existed among early Christians, who for 300 years elected their own bishops and pastors. Many Catholics will not, and morally cannot, any longer support the existing ineffective and negative policies of the current hierarchy. Many Catholics want a Church governance structure that assures the accountability of all who act on behalf of the Church. Many Catholics also want the Church to promote positive policies concerning human sexuality and gender matters that are true to Catholics’ everyday lived experience in the present and in accordance with the loving spirit of the Gospels. Catholics worldwide are now increasingly standing up for their Church and, I expect, will vigorously support the call for the independent commission. History will surely judge them badly if they do not act and more innocent children suffer. The big question now is will the pope cooperate with an independent commission or will he once more miss a real opportunity to reform and preserve the Catholic Church and the great faith it supports. Time will tell!
To date, unfortunately, the pope has too often followed a Nixonian Watergate-style stonewalling strategy. He completely evades answering directly questions about his involvement in several very disturbing child abuse cases. His spokespeople mainly just deny, deny and deny. His defenders fiercely attack any one who dares to raise obvious and legitimate questions and even try to smear them with outrageous slurs. I worked while at Harvard Law School for Archibald Cox, the Watergate prosecutor mainly responsible for bringing Nixon to justice. I think if he were here today, Archibald Cox would find the pope’s strategy very familiar. It didn’t work for Nixon and it cannot in the age of the internet and 24 hour news cycles possibly work for the pope. Hopefully, the pope will realize that soon and endorse the independent commission as being in everyone’s best interests.”
Gerald T. Slevin practiced law until retirement at the Wall Street firm of Sullivan & Cromwell. Mr. Slevin attended 16 years of Catholic schools before graduating from Harvard Law School.
Next Pope & Only Some Cardinals Are Immune For Abuse Crimes
By Jerry Slevin, a retired Catholic and Harvard “schooled” international lawyer
Tens of thousands of survivors of priest rape worldwide, and many millions of other people, surely think it outrageous that either the Pope or any Cardinal is immune from prosecution for child endangerment. Nevertheless, the next Pope and Cardinals at the Vatican are likely immune, as Cardinal Law well knew when he fled Boston for the Vatican.
Philly’s Cardinal Bevilacqua lacked immunity, but died last year before his likely imminent indictment. His successor, Cardinal Rigali, appears to remain at risk as the civil case against him proceeds. Their top subordinate, Monsignor Lynn, today sits in prison for following the cover-up orders of his Cardinal.
Los Angeles prosecutors, recently emboldened by an evidentially “Vatican blessed” public shaming of Cardinal Mahoney, are feverishly combing through recently released files apparently trying to find some basis to prosecute Cardinal Mahoney.
Neither Cardinal Rigali nor Ireland’s Cardinal Brady have been publicly shamed, so far at least, for their well reported abuse cover-up misdeeds, nor has convicted Opus Dei Bishop Finn, a St. Louis protégé like Cardinal Dolan of the Vatican clique’s longtime colleague, Cardinal Rigali.
It appears that, for the immune Vatican clique, there are different shaming standards depending on which Cardinal misbehaves. Apparently, Cardinals like Mahoney, who may be disapproved of politically by key plutocratic Republican Vatican contributors, are at a higher risk of public shaming. If this arbitrary process fails to make some Cardinals anxious, they should have a serious talk soon with their criminal lawyers.
Overall, few Cardinals outside the Vatican are likely legally immune from local prosecution for child endangerment. Most Cardinals must now worry if they face potential prosecution whether the next Pope will offer them the “Cardinal Law shield” or the “Cardinal Mahoney shaft”. Hierarchical “hardball”, to be sure!
Moreover, neither the Pope nor any Cardinal is immune from prosecution for crimes against humanity by the mother who is currently serving as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. She has been involved recently in a major conviction of a senior political leader for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity. The Pope and Cardinals Sodano, Bertone and Levada are currently the subject of a criminal complaint filed for crimes against humanity allegedly for the worldwide cover-up of priest rapes of innocent children. The Pope’s resignation has likely reduced the political resistance to this case proceeding, possibly with the addition as criminal defendants of other Vatican Cardinals who may have played a role in covering-up or in suppressing canonical judicial investigations under the “omerta” approach.
The octogenarian Vatican clique is now trying to ram through quickly a subservient new Pope who will do their bidding for their few remaining years, leaving younger Cardinals, Bishops and worldwide Catholics to fend for themselves thereafter. Cardinals are now being stampeded to vote early. Will all Cardinals be so shortsighted to fall for this? Will at least one-third of them slow the election process down and still salvage the Church (and themselves) instead? There is a way they can do this as described below.
All Cardinals, if only in their own self-interest, need to act now to begin to fix the Church first before it is too late, especially before a complicit new Pope is installed for life to protect the Vatican clique. Prosecutors are increasingly moving into the Church, while Catholics are steadily moving out, and all will continue to do so if the Church is not fixed promptly.
President Obama’s new Catholic chief of staff just said on Meet The Press, in effect, that the Church will do fine if it does the right things. And what if it continues to do some bad things as is obscenely reported almost daily in the international media? President Obama and a U.S. Presidential investigation commission, similar to Australia PM Julia Gillard’s new commission, would have the clout to compel much of the fix needed. President Obama has condemned institutional child sexual abuse. Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Lori continue to try to derail Obamacare with their absurd “Taco Bell” ploy.
Will Cardinals instead try to fix the Church themselves now or just continue the risk of sitting in prison cells, as some of them very well may be doing soon, wishing they had fixed it when they could have? Philly’s Monsignor Lynn, former top subordinate to Cardinals Rigali and Bevilacqua now in jail for child endangerment, proves this risk is real. Make sure you ask Cardinal Rigali about this at the conclave next month.
Here’s what smart Cardinals can and should do. They need to block by a one-third vote any papal candidate that will not agree publicly now to take the following three actions:
(1) Serve only a three year term subject to re-election thereafter. Pope Benedict just proved by resigning that the papacy is not a lifelong position.
(2) Appoint now a special committee to identify and recommend within nine months needed structural and pastoral changes, as described in my April 2010 Washington Post web column you should read now that tried to warn Pope Benedict three years ago about what he was facing, that he foolishly failed to acknowledge, and which is linked here at:
(3) Implement the needed changes so identified at a worldwide council held away from Rome within six months of receipt of the special committee’s recommendations as described in my Washington Post column.
Alternatively, Cardinals can give the Vatican clique their blank papal proxies, then hire expensive criminal lawyers and pray for a miracle. How do they really think God will respond?
Pertinently, among some of the relevant guidelines generally ascribed to Jesus are that he was opposed to a self-important, excessively scrupulous and overly indulgent religious hierarchy and that he thought children should be protected from harm. These points have neither been consistently understood nor respected in the Vatican for decades, even for centuries. The “Good News”, or the Gospels, have often been disregarded by the Catholic hierarchy where a Renaissance culture of opulence and celibate incomprehension of children still predominate today.
Where in the Gospels did Jesus say predatory priests are to be protected before innocent children, like the Vatican has done for decades, if not centuries? Where did Jesus instruct his followers to wear $30,000 outfits paid for by donations like Cardinal Burke reportedly does? Where did Jesus tell his followers to launder money like Cardinals reportedly do through the Vatican Bank?
If, as Benedict has clearly indicated, a Pope should go if he is unable to perform his duties, should he be removed if he is unwilling to perform or performs badly? Should there be term limits or maximum age limits? Of course, the only logical answer is yes to all of these related questions. But the Vatican is run by power politics, not logic, or even spiritual values for that matter. Some Vatican Cardinal will likely leak soon the real reasons Benedict is retiring. Benedict will meet soon with top Italian leaders who seem to be benefiting in their own election contests from the media attention on the Pope. Is an immunity deal in the air? In any event, the real story should be our soon.
It is time to restore Catholic leadership to the consensual approach that Jesus and early Catholics followed for over three centuries until Roman Emperors converted the Catholic Bishops, including the Pope, into an imperial bureaucracy dominated by a Vatican clique that dictated ruthlessly for 1,700 years, and still dictates, top-down to Catholics seemingly to fill the clique’s coffers. It seems significant that key Vatican powers, Pope Benedict and Cardinal Sodano, were both born in 1927 and spent their formative years under totalitarian dictators, Hitler and Mussolini, respectively. This is well reflected in their hierarchical approach, but they seem to forget that the Fuhrer and Il Duce eventually got their gruesome rewards, mainly at the hands of constitutional democracies. The Vatican no longer has powerful European monarchs or opportunistic dictators to protect it and plutocrats flee weakness quickly. The Holy Roman Emperor’s phone has been disconnected for almost a century.
Catholics will not likely in their lifetimes have a better opportunity than in connection with the papal election to reform the Church, and at the same time to protect children as Jesus commanded. It is time to restore the consensual church management structure that the overwhelming vote of Vatican II Cardinals and Bishops contemplated would be adopted a half century ago before a minority of Cardinals like Ottaviani, Wotyla, Ratzinger, Sodano, Bertone, Levada, Rigali, Mahoney, Law, Burke, Bevilacqua, Brady, et al., subverted its implementation.
Pope John XXIII issued in 1962 the main secrecy order on priest child sex abuse. But he also realized that accountability had to be restored to save the Church. He took the first step by trying to get the Vatican Cardinals to share power with the worldwide bishops. He died soon thereafter and the Vatican Cardinals’ clique rejected power sharing craftily. Since then, they have installed compliant Popes who like the papal prestige and are happy to do the clique’s bidding. But the democratic rule of law has run out of patience with clerical child abusers and Popes no longer have any effective political power, as the re-election of President Obama and papal political setbacks in the Philippines, Australia, the United Kingdom, France and elsewhere just proved.
The International Sheriff appears to be on his way to Rome and the Pope cannot hide for long with Gorgeous Georg in a refurbished convent. Some of his own Cardinals, or his butler, may likely help nail him, it appears. The Vatican clique’s unending stream of blunders, the latest including (1) appointing Cardinal Law’s former canon lawyer as chief Vatican prosecutor of predatory priests, (2) appointing as part-time Vatican Bank “chief” a German investment banker, who is reportedly also overseeing a major arms dealer, and (3) the selectively and gratuitously shaming of Cardinal Mahoney publicly.
But at this point does any of this matter to most Catholics worldwide? While it may seem overly pessimistic to say so soon that the next Pope will likely fail too, it is just being realistic; and yet there is also room for much optimism. The papal resignation is tantamount to an admission of failure and will lead to de-mystification of the papacy quickly. Pope Benedict XVI, soon to again be non-Pontiff, Joseph Ratzinger, and his Vatican clique led by Cardinal Sodano et al., have already set the stage for the next failure.
The sudden call for a quick election conclave substantially diminishes any chance of a real opposition being mounted by non-Vatican Cardinals. Since the Pope apparently knew for some time he would resign, the suddenness seems well planned. Ratzinger will soon be living a few hundred yards away from the new Pope in his refurbished retirement base, hardly a monastery.
Ratzinger and Sodano already likely know who will be the next Pope and one would be foolish to bet against them. Perhaps Cardinals might save some money by just mailing in blank proxies to Sodano.
The reason for some optimism is that the Vatican clique’s apparent raw power grab will now just accelerate the sinking of the Vatican Titanic that much sooner. Even overly trusting Catholics will see through the clerical charade. Various prosecutors and survivors lawyers can now be expected to be able to reach Ratzinger, who may lose his legal immunity in a few weeks. Once the rule of international law starts pulling hard directly on papal threads, the Vatican hierarchy can expect to be quickly uncovered and forced to initiate reforms, perhaps after some senior officials face prosecution, which is likely not too far off.
For example, longtime Vatican Cardinal Rigali is still at risk of prosecution in Philadelphia where his predecessor, Cardinal Bevilacqua, last year apparently escaped a likely imminent criminal indictment for child endangerment by dying first! Their hapless senior aide, Monsignor Lynn, took the fall so far and is in prison.
Yes, Cardinals apparently will now go to Rome, but they could have demanded first that a conference be convened soon, before any election occurs, to be held far away from Rome to address seriously and comprehensively the Church’s major problems, which are just getting worse with the recent decades of papal inattention and will continue to get worse if Ratzinger and Sodano elect their man.
Catholics are not and should not be waiting on Cardinals. Australian and Irish Catholics have already gotten their governments to act. Now many from different faiths and no faith all across the USA, and even worldwide, including some of those harmed by the abuse of the deaf victims in Milwaukee, have already signed my petition calling on President Obama to step up. They have indicated they have had enough with the domination of local prosecutors and legislators by the Catholic hierarchy and its well paid apologists and lawyers.
More signatures, including yours, will help accelerate the establishment of the U.S. national investigation commission, especially important now when the Vatican may be at a turning point.
We all have a moral obligation to protect children and signing a petition is a simple, yet potentially effective, way towards meeting that obligation. Please take a minute and sign it at:
Please, as well, ask those you respect and who value children to sign it also. If you are active in a U.S. advocacy group, ask your leadership to support the petition. Similarly reticent progressive Catholic voices, like the National Catholic Reporter and Commonweal, seem reluctant to press for the positive prospects of President Obama establishing a U.S. national investigation commission. They need now to take a stand.
What are they all waiting for? Blogging, writing, debating and prayer, however admirable and well intentioned, have to date barely influenced the Vatican clique and their subservient U.S. Bishops on reforms and will likely do little more in the future, certainly in the near term as more children are raped by priests, while duped Catholics continue to contribute enabling complicit bishops to protect priest pedophiles and predators perpetually.
I have separately proposed that President Obama consider appointing First Lady, Michelle Obama, to chair the new Obama commission. She is well respected as a Harvard lawyer and devoted mother. She would be an ideal choice with her established credibility if she were willing to accept the appointment.
The First Lady of the USA could consult with another effective former practicing lawyer, Julia Gillard, Australia’s Prime Minister, who just established a national investigation commission that already has the Catholic hierarchy and the Vatican running for cover.
Prime Minister Gillard recently disclosed that the tipping points in her decision to call for a national commission were the numerous disclosures that the Catholic Bishops, as part of their cover-up, moved predatory priests to avoid prosecution to other states and even other countries, where the predators continued their sexual abuse of more trusting and innocent children. The multistate and multinational dimensions of the crimes against children apparently convinced Prime Minister Gillard she had to take action at the Federal level. This moving of predatory priests interstate and across national borders has, of course, happened repeatedly in the USA as well, necessitating a Federal response in the USA as well.
If the First Lady would oversee this, President Obama would still be able to focus on his many other priorities, including resisting the Vatican’s and its plutocratic Republican contributors’ unrelenting and opportunistic efforts to derail Obamacare over contraception insurance and immigration reform over gay marriage.
U.S. voters recently made clear their rejection of the Vatican’s lobbying efforts to deny marriage equality for gay U.S citizens. Now the Vatican appears to be trying to deny it for gay immigrants. As to the Vatican’s relentless and futile anti-contraception crusade, 79 year old conservative Cologne Cardinal Meisner, recently approved a “morning after” pill of the type that, only a few months ago, many U.S. Bishops were condemning President Obama for helping U.S. women gain affordable access to. Does the Vatican understand how contraceptive pills work? Does the Vatican understand that President Obama has been re-elected?
If there tragically were not over 200 million “unplanned” children living miserably in countries where Vatican lobbying effectively denied their parents access to affordable contraception, a dispute among octogenarian celibates over permissible forms of contraception would make good political satire! But sadly, the Vatican’s anti-contraceptive efforts, apparently mainly to please the Vatican’s plutocratic Republican donors by keeping family planning wedge issues in political play, will very likely only fail again, while these efforts continue nevertheless to burden families and children.
Does the right hand talk to the left among Cardinals and the Vatican clique? Do the unprecedented, selective and well orchestrated shaming by an Opus Dei Archbishop of Cardinal Mahoney, and the unexpected support from Cardinal Meisner for contraception that is reportedly starting to stir up German Bishops, indicate a Cardinals’ revolt is brewing. Will this revolt affect the papal elections next month? We may soon find out.
Please click on to the black text at the top of this column for my analysis of related topics. In particular, for more analysis of the powerful political influence of the Catholic hierarchy here, please see my remarks at
For more analysis of how the emerging divisions among Cardinals might have changed the papal election process, please see my remarks at
Finally, I hope some of you will consider linking this statement to your comments at appropriate websites, such as at:
(1) National Catholic Reporter ( http://ncronline.org ) and of
(2) Commonweal ( http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/ ).
Is the Pope Panicking Over Sex Scandals, Political Polls, or Both?
Views of Jerry Slevin, a “Catholic and Harvard schooled” Wall Street lawyer, retired
Recent Vatican behavior indicates growing fear, if not panic, apparently related mainly to the ongoing clerical sex scandals and to recent papal political defeats. World media outlets are reporting almost daily now more priest sex scandal allegations, most recently about former Los Angeles Cardinal Mahony’s cover-ups for predatory priests and former New York Cardinal Egan’s ex-aide’s cross-dressing and drug and porn dealing. Moreover, on February 4, a week from Monday, HBO will begin airing internationally the devastating award winning documentary, “Mea Maxima Culpa”, about the abuse of over 200 deaf boys and the Vatican’s failure to curtail it. No more free media passes for the Pope, it appears. For some more examples, please read, “How Much Longer Can the Vatican Avoid Priest Sex Abuse?” accessible by clicking on to the heading at the top or to: http://wp.me/P2YEZ3-fj .
Meanwhile, the scandal is seriously harming the Vatican politically, legally, reputationally and financially. Government officials in the USA, Ireland, Italy, Australia, the Philippines, Germany and other nations increasingly challenge papal positions, including on child protection and contraception, sensing evidentally a weakened papacy. If the Pope continues to lose more political clout, he will also lose his power to exchange with political leaders his electoral support for special privileges and subsidies for the Catholic Church, as is already happening in Ireland and will probably soon happen in Australia, the USA and even in his fatherland, Germany.
The new appointment as chief of staff to President Obama of Denis McDonough, the highly regarded brother of a senior hierarchical canon lawyer from the Minneapolis-St. Paul diocese, with its extensive priest sex abuse claims, suggests the President will know well what is going on in the USA with its more than 100,000 estimated survivors of priest sex abuse. President Obama has already spoken out strongly against child sex abuse in organizational settings; now he may step up and do more than talk about it.
Given this, one would have expected the Vatican to try to address the priest scandals seriously and sensibly, and not merely with cosmetic changes and stepped-up spin. Instead, the Vatican seems to be hardening its defenses of the status quo hoping to survive the scandal, very likely a doomed strategy that has failed completely so far. What’s going on?
Current Papal Strategy
The Pope claims a unique divine authority over a mystical Eucharist administered only by low paid celibate male priests managed ruthlessly by his hand picked and well paid Cardinals and Bishops who serve, like him, for life. As such, the Pope claims accountability only to God and demands strict obedience from his hierarchy, priests and laity. Catholics are expected, no questions asked, to donate at the weekly Eucharist Mass and to accept blindly whatever the Pope and his self-serving Catechism say, even when the Bible, history and/or conscience clearly indicate otherwise.
Advantages of Current Papal Strategy:
The advantages are obvious. Wealth, power and privilege for the Pope, his corrupt Vatican Cardinal clique and their subservient worldwide hierarchy, with no accountability. It is great work if you can get it.
Disadvantages of Current Papal Strategy:
The disadvantages are becoming similarly obvious. Corruption, dishonesty, intimidation and now tens of thousands of sexually abused children who demand justice in a world increasingly governed by the rule of law, not by medieval papal dictates. Moreover, accumulating biblical and historical scholarship available to and understood by more Catholics is making clear that much of basis of the Pope’s purported claim to absolute authority is founded on myths and “cherry-picked” scripture and history. This has once again been made concisely clear most recently in the new book by a promising young UK/Italian scholar, “Democracy in the Christian Church”, a detailed description of which is accessible by clicking on at: http://amzn.com/0567449521
The solution is simple. Just follow the recent advice that Milan’s beloved and respected Jesuit scriptural scholar, Cardinal Martini, offered as his final testament, namely, close the 200 year gap in the Church’s structure and enter the democratic era without the Vatican medieval monarchical clique. The monarchical structure is not only contrary to Jesus’ explicit mandates and to early Catholics’ practice, it is too inflexible and ineffective to work in a global environment. The current inability of the Vatican to head off the Bank of Italy’s hold on Vatican credit card operations is just the latest evidence of Vatican managerial incompetence.
The Cardinals will soon meet to elect a new Pope. They can easily instead just postphone the election until a broadbased meeting of lay and clerical, male and female, Catholics can meet to decide on and adopt needed structural and other reforms, as happened at the first council in Jerusalem described in the New Testament. The Catholic Church has during the past decade survived with a severely ill Pope propped up by the Vatican clique and an octogenarian Pope dressed by his sceptical butler. The Catholic Church can get by with no Pope for a year or two, while it gets its own house in order.
Alternatively, the Cardinals can continue to do nothing but more of the same and elect another papal puppet to serve the interests of the corrupt Vatican Cardinal clique. If that happens, outside governments and their prosecutors will soon make the needed changes for them, as some in the hierarchy likely soon face criminal prosecutions and removal from office. Either way, the Spirit will likely soon return the Catholic Church to the consensual form Jesus and his first disciples left behind for 300 years, and discard the coercive one Constantine and his successors imposed and left behind for 1,700 year until now.
How Much Longer Can the Vatican Avoid Priest Sex Abuse?
By Views of Jerry Slevin, a Catholic and Harvard schooled Wall Street lawyer, retired
The Vatican priest child abuse “cover-up denial”, that was so evident at the recent Roman Synod of Bishops, may be manageable for another year or two, but likely not much longer, even with a new Pope. International reality checks, in the form of factual and not mythical revelations, are rapidly exposing the Vatican’s latest mystical smokescreens to be the poor public relations ploys they are. So many innocent Catholic children have been raped by too many predatory priests protected by complicit Cardinals and Bishops. There are limits to trusting Catholics’ inculcated gullibility, and even an ex-FOX News pro working for the Pope can spin only so much. Facts stubbornly speak for themselves. Papal “Tweets” and “Apps” are no substitute for papal candor.
On an academic level, a promising young UK/Italian lay ecclesiologist has effectively exposed the mainly mythological foundation of the Vatican’s claim for absolute papal primacy. The recent book, “Democracy and the Christian Church”, concisely shows the scriptural, theological, philosophical and historical weaknesses of the papal claim and is accessible in part by clicking on at: http://amzn.com/0567449521
Catholics are increasingly learning that hierarchical conduct too often deviates significantly from papal propaganda. Initial Los Angeles secret abuse file revelations have exposed Cardinal Mahony’s reckless protection of known predatory priests. Criminal allegations of drug dealing against, and related cross-dressing and porn shop operation reports about, a former Bridgeport state chaplain of the Knights of Malta and top subordinate to Cardinal Egan and to Archbishop Lori, head of the Pope’s anti-Obama “religious liberty crusade”, are almost incredibly unsavory.
Moreover, reported efforts apparently to protect the secrecy of Munich and Regensburg files of the Pope and his brother, relating to alleged failures in the 1970′s to curtail a Munich predatory priest and to protect abused Regensburg choir boys, by sacking a too thorough German academic investigator, further erodes the steadily disappearing papal credibility. Ruthless attempts to silence a popular Irish priest who spoke about women and married priests, and apparently also to try to curtail an Irish priests’ “union”, are backfiring as the brave priest stands fast. Continued diatribes against gay marriage by a reported drunk driver San Francisco Archbishop appear cynical and desperate at best. Seemingly unending criminal trial disclosures about Cardinal Rigali’s Philly pedophile priest paradise continues to disgust many Catholics. Millions of U.S. Catholics have had enough and want to see these hypocritical and unaccountable actions curbed promptly.
Some Cardinals and Bishops will likely soon begin to be pressed directly by international and individual nations’ prosecutorial investigations. Even an end to Popes being dictated to by corrupt Vatican Cardinal cliques may be on the near horizon, as explained in “Will the Next Pope Become the Vatican’s Last Pope?”, accessible by clicking on the heading at the top here or on: http://wp.me/P2YEZ3-cT
The days of relying mainly on Vatican canon law investigations and “prosecutions”, now to be overseen by one of disgraced Cardinal Law’s former canon lawyers, are over. The major Australian governmental investigation and the almost inevitable upcoming U.S. Federal investigation will only add to the pressure on the Vatican, as explained further in “Why President Obama Must Read the Latest “LA Confidential”, accessible by clicking on the heading on the top here or on: http://wp.me/P2YEZ3-f3 .
Finally, beginning soon on Monday, February 4, HBO will begin airing internationally the award winnning documentary. “Mea Maxima Culpa”. It is the sad story about 200+ deaf boys who were allegedly sexually abused by a single priest in Milwaukee over several decades. Both local law enforcement and the Catholic hierarchy reportedly failed to act timely and adequately on deaf boys’ abuse claims, which even futilely reached the Pope’s CDF department in Rome. A Federal judge recently reversed an earlier shameful attempt by then Archbishop Dolan, now New York’s Cardinal and a reported papal contender, to transfer $55 million of the Milwaukee diocese’s funds to a cemetery trust beyond the legal reach of abuse survivors’ claims, apparently including some of the deaf survivors.
The Vatican and its subservient Cardinals and Bishops may try to run some more, as Cardinal Law so arrogantly did; but they are rapidly running out of places to hide.
Why Does the Pope Play the USA as Fool?
Blog of Jerry Slevin, a lifelong Catholic believer and a retired Wall Street lawyer
The Pope continually treats the USA as a “damned fool”. And why not? From President Obama on down to Catholic leaders like Joe Biden, Leon Panetta, John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, the Pope and his subservient hierarchy in the USA get a pass almost no matter how badly Catholics and even political leaders are treated. Meanwhile, the Prime Ministers of Australia and Ireland on behalf of their citizens properly and publicly challenge the Pope, who then reacts to their fair demands. Listen up, please, Mr. President!
How does Pope Benedict XVI treat the USA as a fool and why does the USA permit this, you may fairly ask? Here is how and why. I will tell you. Now President Obama in his new term must stand up to the monarchical Pope and his subservient U.S. hierarchy, at least for the sake of defenseless children in the USA. Enough with the President’s fawning laughter at Cardinal Dolan’s bad humor and with Leon Panetta kissing the Pope’s ring, as he just did publicly. The President won re-election, despite the Pope’s major effort to prevent that. It is time, in the name of religious liberty, for President Obama to help Catholics protect their children from Vatican tyranny and the horrors it visits on innocent U.S. children.
The Pope treats the USA as a fool by his interference is internal U.S. political elections and decisions and in his protection of too many priests who continue to sexually abuse U.S. children. For additional information on the political interference and child abuse cover-ups, please see my, “Will The Next Pope Be the Vatican’s Last Pope?”, accessible by clicking on the heading at the top here or clicking on to: http://wp.me/P2YEZ3-cT
The President must also set up promptly a national investigation commission into child sexual abuse in organizational settings, like Australia’s PM, Julia Gillard, has just done and Ireland’s PM, Enda Kenny, also did. Local states and counties in the USA have failed, and will continue to fail, at adequately protecting defenseless children from priest predators, and they have failed for over a half century now.
The Boston, LA, Philly and Kansas City dioceses’ priest abuse scandals overwhelmingly prove this failure. In the USA alone, Vatican experts estimate over 100,000 child victims of priest sexual abuse so far. Many of these innocent victims are shunned by the Catholic hierarchy and very often have to depend on governmental assistance to survive. Meanwhile, the hierarchy spends hundreds of millions of dollars on lawyers to make sure bishops are not held accountable.
If, as expected, the President appoints Denis McDonough, as his new Chief of Staff, Denis will need to understand, as I expect he will, that the President’s duty is to protect all U.S. children both from sexual predators, as well as from armed madmen, in organizational settings like churches and schools. This is especially important now because Denis’ brother is reportedly a Catholic hierarchy member who had been involved extensively in overseeing canonical legal matters relating to numerous alleged predatory priest cases in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis where Denis grew up.
Of course, Denis cannot and presumably will not expect that President Obama would play favorites when defenseless children’s safety is at stake. Denis is reportedly a proud father of three young children and will surely concur with President Obama here, notwithstanding what any of his relatives’ views may be if in any way contrary. In any event, President Obama must make this clear to Denis.
The current Chief of Staff, Jack Lew, an Orthodox Jew, recently made this very clear publicly to Jewish educational leaders in New York. Denis, if appointed, should consider following Jack’s lead and also consider making a strong public statement to Catholic leaders to remove all doubts.
President Obama must soon also appoint, as the new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, a person without disqualifying prior ties to the U.S. bishops. For further explanation of why this is so important, please read my, “Obama’s Next Ambassador and Pressing the Next Pope”, accessible by clicking on the heading on the top here or clicking on at: http://wp.me/P2YEZ3-cH
Please post all or parts of these statements, or links to them, everywhere you consider appropriate. Thank you.
Vatican: A New Child Protection Strategy Now?
by Jerry Slevin, retired Wall Street lawyer
WHERE DOES THE VATICAN NOW STAND?
Major new political developments worldwide affecting the Vatican may quickly lead to long overdue changes in its flawed child protection strategy. Two important and informed Cardinals, Martini and Pell, one a former, and the other a present, rumored contender to be elected pope, surprisingly and publicly admitted recently, reportedly, that the Catholic Church’s decades’ old priest child abuse scandal had still not been resolved and would continue to harm the Church, and presumably more innocent children and suffering survivors as well, unless reforms were effected.
Cardinal Martini, who died in September and had been a highly regarded Jesuit scriptural scholar and a very popular head of Italy’s largest diocese, Milan, also noted in August as part of his final description of the Vatican’s strategic failure to protect children sufficiently, that ” … the church bureaucracy rises up …”, clearly pointing his finger at the secretive and powerful Vatican administrative clique within Pope Benedict XVI’s administration, also called the Curia.
The new shocking announcement that one of Cardinal Law’s former Boston canon lawyers is to be the new Vatican prosecutor on priest child abuse cases just reinforces these Cardinals’ recent negative assessments of the Vatican’s current flawed strategy. Cardinal Law fled to the Vatican in 2004 apparently to escape the fallout from the explosive 2002 Boston Archdiocesan priest child abuse revelations. Cardinal Law’s former subordinate replaces the Vatican’s chief prosecutor, who was recently “promoted out” to Malta following his “bombshell” public statement confirming the harmful influence of a pervasive Vatican code of silence, or in Mafia terminology, “Omerta”, on child abuse matters.
Also surprisingly, in one fateful and unprecedented week last month, Catholic laity concerned about children in different parts of the world directly rejected clear Vatican signals by supporting the re-election of President Barack Obama in the USA, and the establishment of a special national child sexual abuse investigation commission by Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Australia. And now the Philippine legislature has just approved a very popular law to make contraception affordably accessible there, despite strong Vatican opposition.
The Vatican’s long time significant worldwide political influence over Catholic voters has already likely ended. External pressures are now mounting for real Vatican reforms. There is set out below a summary of the considerations favoring these major reforms, as I now see them in light on my experience as a Wall Street lawyer over several decades advising up close senior executives in multinational organizations, as well as from my perspective as a grandparent and lifelong Catholic.
If you understand these considerations, you will realize reforms are not only possible, but almost inevitable as more external pressure builds on the Vatican. It seems clear to me as an experienced lawyer observing the Vatican’s continuing evasive behavior, often masked by religious rhetoric, that reforms to the flawed child protection strategy will happen mainly and probably soon as a result of subjecting the Vatican to the modern rule of law mandated by constitutional democracies, such as Australia, the USA and Ireland. You can make a difference in influencing how soon the reforms are made by supporting the application of the rule of U.S. law to the Vatican by clicking on and signing the petition to President Obama accessible at
Please avoid being distracted by the seemingly unending “mystical smokescreens” about papal “tweets”, papal saint-making, papal books, even about the papal butler and the other obvious papal rhetorical ploys that Pope Benedict XVI’s well funded Vatican media team, now headed by an ex-FOX News reporter, spins out on an almost daily basis. Disappointingly, some Vatican based media reporters apparently under deadlines and beholden at times to their onoing sources too often just rehash this typical trivia, instead of either pressing their sources on the really important questions or thinking through the real significance of the dissembling and corruption they see with their own eyes, as the butler has recently confirmed to the world at great personal risk. Apparently, it took a simple, but brave, butler just to get much of the international media to pay close attention, for awhile at least. Now the butler’s fate has been decided, while the corruption he sought to expose apparently goes on seemingly unabated and too often unchallenged by the world’s media.
PLEASE CLICK on to the above link and read and sign the short online petition. It calls on President Obama to promptly establish a U.S. national investigation commission comparable to Australia’s. All of the good reasons for establishing the commission in Australia apply here in the USA as well. There are no good reasons for President Obama not to set up the commission in the USA soon. He has repeatedly acknowledged the need to protect children from violence and abuse. You need to take this unique opportunity to encourage him to act decisively now by your signing this petition promptly; otherwise the petition may be disregarded for insufficient public interest.
PLEASE SIGN the above petition. Please encourage personally and by social media others, including family, friends, neighbors and fellow believers and non-believers, everyone who values children, to sign it also. Anyone 13 years or older can sign it.
PLEASE SHARE and circulate also my broad statement here, POST the full statement or portions thereof on your website and/or INSERT a link to this statement in current and future relevant comments you may make on other websites, as you judge appropriate. This hopeful message of potential reforms needs to get out to make sure the reforms occur.
The major national Catholic social justice movement, Call To Action, has just publicly begun to promote the above petition. Other groups, like the Childrens’ Defense Fund, the Voice of the Faithful, the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and the Association of the Rights of Catholics in the Church, are also being encouraged to support the petition publicly in the near future. SNAP reportedly appears to support strongly the establishment of the Australian commission, but seems puzzlingly silent so far on encouraging President Obama to establish a comparable U.S. commission.
President Obama and several key members of his Administration, including his Chief of Staff, his Defense Secretary and his Attorney General, have already indicated recently they are taking some actions to stop the sexual abuse of children, especially in organizational settings. Now President Obama must take the lead on a comprehensive approach. As President, he already has full authority to establish this investigation commission without becoming enmeshed in the inevitable delays of seeking action from a divided Congress.
The rapes of young children secretly in a dark church by a heartless priest they were taught to trust are usually kept hidden for years and understandably get much less media attention than the senseless slaughter of children by a clearly deranged and insanely armed young man openly in a Newtown school he unexpectedly invaded; but they are all horrific and preventable evils for each of the young victims of these unspeakable crimes, for their loved ones and for everyone who cares about children. We must do all we can to curtail all violence against children, sexual as well as gun violence. We clearly have not done enough. You can help by signing the above petition. Please take a minute now and do so.
Will these major political setbacks worldwide for long standing Vatican policies result in changes in the failing papal strategy for protecting children from sexual abuse by priests and other Church agents? What exactly is the current flawed papal strategy? How was the current flawed strategy developed? Will these strategic political failures affect the election of the next pope expected by many to be occurring soon? Will the democratically elected and constitutionally controlled “Throne” now compel the Vatican to clean up the badly soiled and papally controlled “Altar”?
To assess what the possibilities are for real Vatican change in the near term, it is necessary to consider briefly the historical and political contexts in which the Vatican’s present internal and external strategies have developed.
IS THE CONSTANTINIAN CAPTIVITY ABOUT TO END?
The Catholic Church progressed steadily for three centuries after Jesus’ death, with considerable theological diversity, independently from the Roman Emperors. Its originally decentralized Church organization generally prospered and expanded under consensually selected local Church leaders, including some women, despite occasional and mostly local Roman persecutions. The Catholic spiritual “Altar” and the Roman imperial “Throne” were originally separate. Individual Catholics had a meaningful say for over three centuries after Jesus on choosing their own Church leaders and on evaluating these leaders’ performance in office.
If you were to imagine “playing back the videotape” and interviewing Catholics living in the first three centuries, they would surely have been shocked and confounded to hear how Jesus’ simple message of loving God and neighbor that was shared at a common meal with fellow believers had been hijacked by a clique of opportunistic men in Vatican City to serve as the foundation of a too often seemingly profit-driven multinational organization that frequently appears to exist mainly to benefit these men and their obedient, subservient and well rewarded male bishops worldwide.
Following the proclamation of the powerful Roman Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Toleration in 313, the consensual Catholic Church the Apostles left behind was rapidly transformed in fundamental ways. Catholics still bear the brunt of some of the adverse aspects of this transformation by force, but that may be about to change. The Roman Emperors and their monarchical successors from Constantine on, in effect, frequently commandeered the Catholic Church, installing a coercive imperial-style hierarchical structure that operated top-down with “good” and “bad” popes for much of the subsequent 1,700 years up until the present, even through the 16th Century Reformation.
A new theological “orthodoxy” was often enforced during this period by imperial force, Church councils were called and influenced by emperors and monarchs and a canonical list of some disparate earlier writings to be included in the New Testament was effectively pressed. The “Altar” and the “Throne” were in a relatively short period generally merged under imperial pressure. Some of these merged elements have remained dominant in the Catholic Church until now in varying degrees continuously, despite the disappearance of all of the Roman Emperors and their monarchical successors by the end of World War I in 1918.
As late as 1903, in the lifetime of a few persons yet still living, the last ruling successor of the Holy Roman Emperor vetoed a leading contender in the then pending papal election. Since 1918, significantly, voting Cardinals have been generally free of outside governmental political pressure in papal elections, further strengthening the residual “de facto” power over popes inherent in the voting bloc held by the large group of Vatican Cardinals. The Vatican administration for the past hundred years has generally operated in Vatican City free of both external political control and internal lay Catholic influence, with accountability to no one as a practical matter.
As an frequently unaccountable hierarchical organization, the Vatican administration during much of this 1,700 year period has spent considerable energy, internally, on struggles for power and control over Vatican wealth and prestige among competing hierarchs and, externally, on interacting politically and sometimes even militarily with competing imperial powers up until the pope’s large Italian kingdom, the Papal States, fell militarily in 1870 to Italian nationalists. This resulted, until the late 1920′s papal bargain with Italian fascist dictator, Mussolini, in the so-called self-imposed “papal imprisonment” of the Vatican administration on the 100+ acre “campus” in Rome called Vatican City. Significantly, Pope Benedict XVI was baptized and confirmed during the “reign” of a pope, Pius XI, who had himself been born and confirmed in the Papal States.
WILL THE VATICAN SOON CHANGE DUE TO INTERNAL PRESSURE?
From 1870 until the present, the rare efforts to replace this coercive hierarchical heritage and restore the Catholic Church’s original internal consensual structure, including at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), for example, by changing from a papal hierarchical vertical model to an episcopal collegial, power-sharing, horizontal model, have generally not succeeded. Consequently, internally the Vatican has continued to be controlled since 1870 mainly by a self-perpetuating Vatican leadership group, mostly Vatican based Cardinals.
Operating as a voting bloc, Vatican Cardinals usually have a decisive “de facto” veto vote on selecting new popes. This clique thereby often gets to select on their terms their “man” as pope and also as a consequence to control tightly worldwide Catholic Bishops and related worldwide Catholic wealth through this clique’s designated candidate.
Notwithstanding the papal butler’s recent valiant and thankless efforts to expose this Vatican clique, Vatican Cardinals will likely soon get to pick the next pope in the forthcoming papal election. “Vaticanista” reporters will try to earn their expensive Roman keep by writing their usual harmless “horse race” stories for docile Catholics worldwide, as “papabiles” strut their red dresses in parades featured on CNN and similar underinformed media outlets. Astute observers, however, will know that the winner will more than likely be pre-determined before the race even begins.
Several efforts of some “progressive” Catholic leaders and thinkers, like Pope Benedict XVI’s oldest living former colleague and a fearless best selling scholar, Fr. Hans Kung, to argue for internal structural reforms, citing as support the clear implications of some of the actual decrees of the Second Vatican Council overwhelmingly approved between 1962 and 1965 by the worldwide Catholic Church’s Cardinals and Bishops, have often been strongly resisted and sometimes just ignored by the Vatican dominant clique. The Vatican’s worldwide network of ambitious academic apologists, some of whom at times talk and behave as if the Second Vatican Council never occurred, often then just echo the evasions of their Roman masters. The Vatican clique’s aggressive and long standing intimidation efforts against alternative internal progressive voices have in the past usually limited the impact of these alternative voices among rank and file Catholics.
At present, these progressive reformers, despite the overwhelming evidence from Church history and the Second Vatican Council proceedings supporting their case for reform, have no effective appeal remedies. Significantly, however, many more Catholics are increasingly boldly rejecting the Vatican’s and its apologists’ contrived rhetoric, are listening to these stalwart scholars’ message and are poised to support long overdue Vatican internal reforms. The recent resistance shown by a majority of local Catholics to strong papal political pressure in the USA, Australia, the Philippines, Ireland and elsewhere demonstrates that these reformers’ influence is rapidly spreading.
Even now, the current dominant Vatican clique is purportedly subject only to the absolute rule of the 85 year Pope Benedict XVI, although his butler apparently was sceptical about the extent of the aging pope’s actual control, it appears. It is clear, in any event, that the dominant Vatican curial clique internally remains unaccountable either to the Catholic laity, to the various Catholic religious orders, to local Catholic priests or, it appears, even to most non-Roman Cardinals and Bishops, despite some of these Cardinals’ and Bishops’ being at considerable risk of possible criminal proceedings for implementing elements of the Vatican’s flawed child protection policies.
For example, Philadelphia’s recently deceased Cardinal Bevilacqua, in my legal judgment after following Philly events closely, likely only avoided prosecution earlier this year on account of his terminal illness. Meanwhile, his subordinate, Monsignor Lynn, who said repeatedly under oath at his criminal trial this year that he only followed his Cardinal’s orders, sits in prison for child endangerment. Lynn’s subsequent Philly boss, Cardinal Rigali, a long time member of the Vatican upper management team, still appears to be in some legal jeopardy. Cardinal Rigali incidentally had also served as mentor for Kansas City’s Bishop Finn, who pleaded guilty several months ago to a child endangerment related crime but still remains an active Bishop, and for New York’s Cardinal Dolan, who reportedly continues to be a key focus of ongoing legal proceedings related to alleged priest child abuse cover-up misdeeds in Milwaukee.
The Vatican’s recent worldwide political losses suggest it may soon become accountable to the democratically elected and constitutionally controlled “Throne” with its modern rule of law, initially at least with respect to the Vatican’s failures to protect sufficiently children from predatory priests and to operate the Vatican Bank transparently. This likely new accountability can be expected, in turn, to lead to changes soon thereafter in the Catholic Church’s hierarchical structure as well. Cardinals and Bishops worldwide would then likely resist more strongly having their legal and financial protections dictated and/or undercut by octogenarian Vatican overseers, who may be too old to face prosecution themselves and who too often seem incurably oblivious to everyday Catholics’ concerns. This is perhaps to be expected from octogenarians who have apparently spent too many years in the unaccountable and almost surreal Vatican bubble inherited from the Papal States and the Middle Ages before that.
Moreover, the new revelations likely to be forthcoming from the new Australian investigation commission, and the U.S. commission as well if President Obama establishes one as he ought to, can be expected to increase significantly the pressure from lay Catholics for more transparency and accountability from the Vatican administration, and from their local Bishops as well. Few Catholics have accepted the flawed Church funded “expert studies” that painted an overly rosy picture of current Church child protection strategy and relied mainly on uneven data that some suspect bishops may have volunteered to share with the well paid experts. In February last at a Vatican public conference, “Vatican invited experts” gave a conservative estimate of over 100,000 youthful victims to date of priest sexual abuse already in the USA alone and still counting. So much for the rosy “expert” studies!
These impending new revelations in turn will likely hit the Vatican administration hard where it often seems to matter to them most, in their pocketbook. More Catholics, many of whom to date still have difficulty facing up to the upsetting reality of priest sexual abuse of children, would likely decrease even further their financial contributions to the Church and its institutions. Moreover, many more of them would also likely object more strenuously to large governmental subsidies to Vatican dominated institutions, like hospitals and universities, that can be operated in most cases at least as effectively without the Vatican’s almost superfluous “product brand” plastered on them.
These Catholic institutions will also likely face additional public objections from their employees and others over the Vatican’s continuing cynical U.S. presidential election year ploy to deny these employees contraceptive health insurance to try to undercut President Obama and other Democrats with some Catholic voters. And, surely, even fewer young Catholics born in the U.S. will be interested in becoming priests, compounding the severe and growing shortage of U.S. born candidates that is contributing to many Church closures. Imported foreign seminarians and priests, however well intentioned, have not satisfactorily closed and cannot close this gap. Moreover, several dozen of these foreign priests have reportedly fled the USA after being accused of sexual misdeeds, usually involving minors.
Also, the HBO worldwide cable network’s airing in a few weeks of the new award winning documentary, “Mea Maxima Culpa”, about the alleged sexual abuse of over 200 deaf boys in Milwaukee by a single priest that was, in effect, covered-up for decades in Milwaukee and Rome, as well as the public release shortly of the Los Angeles Archdiocesan abuse files related to the $660 million Archdiocesan priest child abuse legal settlements, can both be expected to add considerably to the escalating public pressure for more Vatican transparency and accountability to the rule of law.
Moreover, the potential prosecution for child endangerment in the near term of some Cardinals and Bishops worldwide, a not unlikely scenario, would surely sweep away quickly many of the specious “traditional” arguments about the “immutability” of the current hierarchical structure of the “Vicar of Christ” and the “successors to the Apostles” and the related purported historical impossibility of making changes to the Catholic Church’s imperially mandated structure. Popes did a U-turn by prohibiting slavery after permitting it for centuries. Restoring the original consensual Church organizational structure in the Internet Age is scriptural, theologically and practically achievable and much more consistent with Jesus’ mandate that the “last shall be first” than the current hierarchical structure is.
As my high school chum, Rudy Guiliani, proved in challenging the Mafia as a brave Federal prosecutor, when the prosecutorial heat rises against an entrenched group, as is beginning to happen, prior precedents suggest it rapidly becomes “every man for himself”. Philly’s Monsignor Lynn recently learned this when reportedly Archbishop Chaput, likely with Cardinal Rigali’s concurrence, apparently underfunded the sums needed to pay Monsignor Lynn’s lawyers for a credible appeal of his conviction. Let all non-bishop clerics working for bishops note this well. They will likely be on their own if prosecuted!
WILL THE VATICAN SOON CHANGE DUE TO EXTERNAL PRESSURE?
In the Vatican’s external political relations since the late 1920′s, beginning with its relations with its early modern political allies, including “elected” fascist dictators, Mussolini, Hitler and Franco, then continuing through the 20th Century with the Vatican’s relations with (1) numerous Latin American, African and Asian leaders, also often “elected” dictators, (2) American presidents, especially right-wing Republican ones, beginning with President Reagan, and (3) these leaders’ wealthy plutocratic supporters, the Vatican’s policy has been customarily to “exchange” papal electoral support locally for specific national candidates in exchange (A) for governmental financial subsidies and special privileges for the local national Catholic Church and its controlled institutions and for donations from wealthy Catholic plutocrats, and (B) “de facto” legal protection for the Vatican administration from any significant application of the international rule of law to either the Vatican’s Roman or worldwide operations.
Shrewdly, this local papal electoral support has usually been “wrapped” in a country-specific wedge issue, as was just done, albeit very unsuccessfully, in the USA elections with the anti-contraception and anti-gay marriage issues. This basic, century-old Vatican external political strategy just failed spectacularly last month in the USA and Australia and this week in the Phillipines, raising now great pressure on the Vatican to changes its external strategy, which may very well trigger changes in internal strategy as well. It is becoming increasingly clearer, to me at least, that a key reason the Vatican clique pushes “sexual” and “gender” legal issues so strongly is that it gives them a “hook” for Catholic voters in national political campaigns, thereby creating electoral “value” for the Vatican to “trade” to political leaders and their wealthy plutocratic supporters in democracies with a significant bloc of Catholic voters.
ARE THE NEW PRESSURES ON THE VATICAN TO CHANGE STRATEGIES ENOUGH?
Will the Vatican change these strategies now? Could these strategies even be changed now as a new pope is apparently to be elected soon, probably pre-selected by the current powerful Vatican Cardinals with their effective veto voting bloc? And what if the Vatican fails to change these strategies? Will governmental investigations in Australia, Ireland, the USA, and likely many more countries soon effectively force the Vatican to change fundamentally under the threat of international law enforcement?
The Catholic Church is at a critical crossroad. Can the spiritual “Altar” and the papal “Throne” again be separated as they were fruitfully under the Apostles and for three centuries following? In theory, there is no valid reason why a decentralized Church free of political alliances could not be effective, indeed more effective, in the Internet Age. Of course, that structure would likely reduce the power, wealth and prestige of the Vatican clique. Will the modern constitutionally controlled secular Throne’s application of the international rule of law to the Vatican compel the cleansing of the imperial Altar and also bring about long overdue internal Church reforms?
It is remarkable that the Church began last month a laity-supported and irreversible “great escape” from this imperial medieval capitivity. The laity appear mainly motivated by a desire to benefit existing and future children, millions of whom suffer often as unplanned children of parents who cannot afford to raise them decently. Many children are also too often subjected to sexual abuse by priests whom the innocent children have been told by their parents to trust.
This “great escape” began as mentioned above during the historic week that commenced on November 6, 2012 with U.S. President Barack Obama’s re-election with majority Catholic voter support despite papal opposition over contraception, and ended on November 12, 2012 with Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard’s call for an Australian royal commission to investigate organizational child sexual abuse, including in the Catholic Church, despite much papal opposition earlier, but with overwhelming Catholic laity support.
The U.S. November 6 “contraception insurance victory” for President Obama and the simultaneous resounding defeat of anti-gay marriage initiatives, followed quickly by the Philippine legislature’s approval, again over papal objections but with widespread lay Catholic support, for providing broad access to affordable contraception, will likely reduce the frequency of U.S. and Philippine couples either having children they cannot afford or having to consider whether to seek an abortion. These are just plain facts demonstrated widely. The Vatican may claim otherwise and push some rear-guard action to save face and maintain the illusion of having political clout to “exchange”, but it has already lost the contraception and gay marriage legal wars as a practical matter.
The unprecedented and powerful Australian investigation commission will likely, as noted above, lead to the disclosure of many of the Catholic Church’s secret files on predatory priests and bishops’ mismanagement of them. This, in turn, will likely further alienate the worldwide Catholic laity and raise demands for effective hierarchical accountablity structures, perhaps just as the prospect of electing a new pope soon approaches. Perhaps enough voting Cardinals will wake up and smell the coffee, for their own sake at least.
Moreover, in the U.S., President Obama has also recently as reported above been publicly petitioned to set up a similar investigation commission, while President Obama’s Chief of Staff, Jack Lew, an orthodox Jew, just blasted Jewish educational leaders in New York on the need to protect children from sexual predators in religious educational settings.
Reportedly, President Obama’s Chief of Staff added, “Across this country in recent years, we have seen too much evidence of inappropriate behavior at too many institutions responsible for nurturing our children, …” adding, “…We can and must take a stand against it, promote awareness, set up preventative measures and openly address concerns as they arise.”
This follows President Obama’s several reported statements after the Penn State/Sandusky scandal erupted, as recently as last summer, that the protection of children from sexual abuse is more important than institutions.
A few days ago, the President reportedly apparently even bypassed his own Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, and went directly to the Army Secretary, an unusual move, to stress the importance of protecting children from abuse following revelations of numerous persons with police records, including some with sexual assault charges, working at a day care center on a Washington, D.C. area military base. Two of these persons have reportedly already even been charged with abusing children at the center. Clearly, the President is being very proactive here to protect children from organizational abuse. A stark contrast to Pope Benedict XVI’s approach.
Secretary Panetta has now ordered a complete review of child care personnel policies on military bases. As a former member of the U.S. Bishops’ original 2002 Child Protection Board, Secretary Panetta knows well the need to have tight procedures to curtail abuse. He presumably saw how U.S. Bishops have evaded accountability under their own 2002 Charter.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Holder has recently announced an international coalition against the sexual exploitation of children using the Internet. He has also pushed cases where Federal prosecutors have a present jurisdictional basis, including interstate sexual assaults involving children and child pornography cases. It is a good start, but more is needed, so please sign the above petition.
In late October, only a few weeks before the remarkable week of November 6-12, numerous carefully selected worldwide Cardinals and Bishops had met at the Vatican at a papally orchestrated week-long Vatican Synod on Evangelization that barely mentioned child sexual abuse. Some U.S. hierarchs there appeared to operate on the expectation that President Obama would not be re-elected. What a monumental difference a few weeks makes!
As alluded to above, following the loss of the Papal States in 1870 and several disasterous wars in Europe that by 1945 ended all other absolute monarchies in Europe and the fascist dictatorships in Germany and Italy that popes had initially facilitated, Pope John XXIII in 1961, the year of President Obama’s and Prime Minister Gillard’s birth, signed the call for the Second Vatican Council. Pope John apparently hoped with the Council to lead the Catholic Church to adjusting internally and externally to a new world of democratic and constitutionally controlled nations.
Following the several decades long withdrawal from most international political matters after the 1870 loss of the Papal States, the Vatican had adopted, as described above, beginning in the late 1920′s a new geo-political stategy of providing Vatican support in fledgling Western democracies to opportunistic leaders, like Mussolini, Hitler and Franco, in exchange for subsidies and privileges for the local national Catholic Church. Pope John XXIII, a seasoned world diplomat, knew the Vatican had to adjust to modern realities, but died in 1963 before he could achieve his goal. The Vatican cliques with their papal election veto then regained their dominant position and have since the 1960′s generally frustrated many of the structural reforms the Second Vatican Council had tried to initiate.
THE AUSTRALIAN CHALLENGE
Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s prominent Cardinal, has been considered by some informed sources as a top prospect to be elected pope in the next papal election expected to be held soon. After spending considerable time in late October in Rome with the Pope and numerous other top Cardinals and Bishops at the lengthy Evangelization Synod that was mainly silent on the priest child sex abuse scandal, Cardinal Pell indicated unexpectedly in a public speech earlier this month that the criminal moral cancer of sexual abuse of children by priests is the most important and powerful barrier to Catholic evangelization at present. As Cardinal Pell now faces an unprecedented Australian national governmental commission to investigate thoroughly organizational child sexual abuse in Australia, including in the Catholic Church, he surprisingly admitted in his speech that the Catholic Church has failed to deal effectively with some predatory priests and to help enough abuse victims heal. He further acknowledged that much more needs to be done in the child protection area.
Amazingly, as mentioned, the Evangelization Synod orchestrated by the Pope in late October barely mentioned the child abuse scandal. What may have caused Cardinal Pell so suddenly to “get religion” on abuse matters? Evidentally, Cardinal Pell is very concerned about the unprecedented investigation commission, and he should be from all indications. So should Pope Benedict XVI.
A brave New York mother who lost her brother to child abuse has filed recently an online White House petition mentioned above to have President Obama set up a similar US commission. A U.S.commission would likely affect U.S. Cardinals as much as the upcoming Australian commission has affected Cardinal Pell, who now publicly endorses the commission he was unable to stop.
CURRENT VATICAN STRATEGY
Cardinal Pell’s quick “conversion” raises questions of where Pope Benedict VI now stands. The October Synod seemed to indicate that the Pope will continue mainly to avoid the abuse scandal.The continuation of Kansas City’s Bishop Finn after his child endangerment conviction suggests continuing Vatican stonewalling. Moreover, the appointment of Cardinal Law’s former canon lawyer as chief Vatican abuse case prosecutor suggests more of the same.
Pope Benedict XVI is generally publicly elusive, doesn’t give journalists regular access and often clouds his carefully drafted statements, and now “Tweets”, with mystical smokescreens. But he has given some clear indications of his ongoing strategy on predatory priests, especially by some of his consistent actions and failures to act, including the recent Synod, Bishop Finn’s retention and his new chief prosecutor appointment. What might the Pope’s current strategy be?
Pope Benedict XVI, in his occasionally candid “My Vatican” video of a few years ago available readily on YouTube, volunteered the surprising admission that Vatican officials operate not very differently or more mysteriously than executives of major corporations. In a similar corporate vein, the pope’s long time doctrinal enforcement official, Cardinal Levada, in attempting to justify his recent carefully planned attack on U.S. Sisters, indicated in a recent interview that the Sisters were not properly presenting the Catholic Church’s “product identity”, pure corporate jargon.
Picking up on the Pope’s and Cardinal Levada’s useful admissions, one may justifiably ask what are the Vatican’s “corporate” structure, strategy, product identity and market position?
Cardinal Levada, for example, tried cutely to identify the Sisters’ “product” with the “Gospel according to Maureen Dowd”. She, of course, is the outspoken Catholic columnist at the New York Times whom Levada had earlier referred to as a “silly parrot”, perhaps because of her red hair and her propensity to soar verbally to peck holes so effectively in papal hot air balloons. Certainly, neither she nor the Sisters are silly!
For many US Catholics, Maureen Dowd’s and American Sisters’ “Gospel” is often much closer to Jesus’ Gospel than the corporate Gospel too often followed by the Pope and his other Vatican officials, most recently in the US presidential elections. The effective reporter and author, Jason Berry, has just convincingly shown in his “New Inquisition” articles that the three U.S. Bishops investigating the Sisters, as well as Cardinal Levada, are hypocritically carrying some of their own heavy baggage from their own different failures to address the child abuse scandal.
Cardinal Levada’s chauvinistic and gratuitous attack on American Sisters, and his premeditated pivot to Maureen Dowd as almost a feminine Martin Luther-type protestor, provide interesting perspectives on Vatican officials’ view of competent Catholic women. The Vatican’s nearly obsessive fear of Maureen Dowd’s pointed and incisive New York Times columns, especially, gives some indication of what “Women Bishops” will inevitably have to face from the Vatican’s exclusively male officials, which confrontation will likely occur much sooner than the Vatican may now be expecting.
Given the way the Nuns on the Bus easily outdistanced the Popemobile in the recent US electoral races, the sheltered Vatican administration with their chauvinistic attitudes have some good reason to fear sharing power with competent Catholic women. These brave women clearly seem less likely than many male bishops to be cowered into secrecy by threats of abrupt removal or to serve as papal puppets in exchange apparently mainly for a larger piece of the Catholic Church’s financial pie.
Is Pope Benedict XVI fallible here? Certainly. Before considering the papally admitted potential parallels of the Vatican’s approach to structure, strategy, product identity and market position to those of multinational corporations, one fundamental and clear difference must be emphasized. The Vatican uniquely operates secretly without accountability either internally to shareholder oversight or externally to regulatory oversight. In some ways, for example in its priest child abuse cover-up and its financial banking scandals, the Vatican seems at times to operate as a “rogue nation” accountable to no one internally or externally.
In my three decades representing many multinational corporations, I observed up close some top executives who would have envied greatly the Vatican’s secretive unaccountabilty, but that corporate battle was effectively lost years ago in constitutional democracies by subjecting corporate executives to the rule of law in a global regulatory environment.
The Pope’s revealing “corporate admission” that suggests one can view the Vatican similarly to corporate models provides a very useful way of analyzing the current Vatican’s approach to the Catholic Church’s “corporate” stucture, strategy, product identity and market position, which also sheds much light on the its flawed child protection strategy.
The Church’s corporate structure is analytically fairly simple. At the top is a pope who is “chief executive officer”, supreme legislator and top judge for life. In practice, papal decisions appear often to be influenced strongly, if not at times controlled by, senior Vatican Cardinals, especially the Secretary of State, currently Cardinal Bertone, who succeeded Cardinal Sodano, who appears still to be influential. Both of these Cardinals have reportedly been linked to several long standing scandals; Bertone to the Vatican Bank and a Milan hospital scandals and Sodano to the Mexican child sex abuser, Fr. Maciel, who eluded Vatican investigators for almost a half century by, among other things, reportedly frequently sprinkling large cash payments to powerful members of the Vatican clique.
The Pope, with his Vatican management team, controls Church canon law and judicial proceedings, and selects and controls worldwide Catholic bishops, who can be removed promptly by the pope. Priests and male and female members of religious orders are controlled directly by local Bishops and/or Vatican managers who direct the orders’ superiors. Any who deviate from currently favored Vatican theological or even political positions are generally disciplined promptly, often harshly and unfairly.
Pope Benedict XVI’s strategy appears targeted at maintaining maximum obedience to current papal theological, ecclesiastical and political positions. Opposing positions are at best given lip service, with the result that millions of Catholics, including priests, have left the Catholic Church in frustation, if not disgust. Some who stay try almost hopelessly and usually unsuccessfully to effect changes by stressing contrary precedents, especially the positions approved at the Second Vatican Council. In theory, clear positions approved by Church Councils could trump a contrary Vatican position. In practice, especially under Popes Benedict XVI and his immediate predecessor, in several crucial areas the Vatican’s interpretations of the Council is what controls Church practice, regardless of the weakness of the arguments supporting them.
The Cathholic Church’s key “product identity” appears to be to create a “monopoly” on the Eucharist, a central element of Catholic worship at the Mass, and on the all male celibate priesthood currently needed to offer the Eucharist worldwide, subject to the control of Bishops and ultimately the Vatican. A common meal of fellow believers in Jesus’ time, at least occasionally overseen by women, has become the central “unique product” in the Vatican’s “marketing” strategy. The pope and his Vatican management team, through numerous “theological” and liturgical statements, seeks to protect and preserve the Vatican’s monopoly here, but need a sufficient number of obedient priests to offer the “product”.
The Vatican seeks zealously to preserve its worldwide “market position” by protecting its “monopoly” on the Eucharist and on the requisite male priesthood against other Christian religious traditions externally and against alternative viewpoints internally, especially espoused often from women seeking admission to the priesthood.
While millions of Catholics have left the Church in rejection of the Vatican’s positions and approach, the Vatican’s prohibition on contraception has helped generate millions of “replacement Catholics”, born to Catholic couples whether or not the couples wanted or could afford to have additional children. Some of those children who survive, often in miserable circumstances, become future sources of Vatican power and wealth, as well as of new priests to serve to fill numerous priest shortages worldwide.
Against this corporate background, the Vatican has seemed incapable of containing its worldwide crisis of children being sexually assaulted by priests. Priests are needed to offer the main “product”, the Eucharist. It take years under current procedures to train young men to serve as obedient and low wage “producer priests”. The supply of domestic priests is diminishing in many countries and foreign “imports” have not and realistically in most cases cannot satisfactorily resolve the shortages.
Fearful of permitting priests to marry or to have women as priests, both of which means the Vatican might have to risk being viewed as “fallible” and then have to deal on a equal basis openly with women priests or priests’ wives, and even some mothers, on all issues, including child protection matters, and also pay at least married priests higher wages, the Vatican has to date thereby retricted the potential supply of new priests.
Consequently, Bishops are increasingly forced at times to ordain questionable seminarians and still even to retain predatory priests. Philly’s Archbishop Chaput is apparently still carrying suspected priests Cardinal Rigali suspended over a year and a half ago. Given this artifical constriction of the already diminishing candidate pool, the prospects are increasingly bleak for solving the predatory priest problem, no matter what the Pope may “tweet” otherwise!
Moreover, the Vatican’s “corporate” financial policy seems impervious to the multi-billion dollar continuing cash drain from child abuse claims. A continuing revenue stream from governmental subsidies, docile Catholics’ and protected plutocrats’ contributions, and Vatican investments and tax free properties, and a willingness to close parishes and schools, makes paying lawyers to protect Bishops an acceptable cost of business, like some financial firms that often treat fraud claims as an acceptable cost of doing business.
Survivors’ lawyers seeking usually the most cash for their cients, sooner rather than later, can apparently be depended on to settle claims and keep the bishops’ potentially incriminating files sealed if the settlement amounts are high enough. Apparently, bishops will often pay whatever is takes to protect themselves. While this expensive litigation process has benefited a small percentage of abuse survivors, it has not benefited many other survivors nor stimulated the Bishops yet to adopt real accountability measures like thorough independent audits.
In view of the unlikelihood as indicated above that the Vatican will effectively curtail predatory priests on its own initiative, governments need to compel corrective action. Please help this happen by signing the above petition.
Matters described above are readily substantiated on the Internet by entering the relevant key words in Google for links to the underlying news and other reports.
Finally, several excellent and readable books available now or soon in bookstores or online amplify much of the foregoing. Helpful summaries and/or reviews of most of them are presently freely available at Amazon.com/books.
These selective books are:
(1) The Theology of Fear, by Fr. Emmett Coyne;
(2) Can the Catholic Church Be Saved?, by Fr. Hans Kung (forthcoming soon in an English version);
(3) What Happened at Vatican II, by Fr. John O’Malley, S.J.;
(4) Trent: What Happened at the Council, by Fr. John O’Malley, S.J.;
(5) Electing Our Bishops: How the Catholic Church Should Elect Its Leaders, by Joseph O’Callaghan;
(6) Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, by Jason Berry;
(7) Perversion of Power: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, by Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea;
(8) The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability For Human Rights Abuse, by Geoffrey Robertson; and
(9) The Politics of Sex and Religion, by Robert Blair Kaiser, available for FREE as an E-Book at robertblairkaiser.com .