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Former Promoter of Justice for Congregation of the Faith Addresses Canon Law Society about Abuse Situation: For Whom Is Canon Law Designed?


Former Promoter of Justice for Congregation of the Faith Addresses Canon Law Society about Abuse Situation: For Whom Is Canon Law Designed?

From the blog: Bilgrimage
Link: http://bilgrimage.blogspot.com/2013/10/former-promoter-of-justice-for.html

In my previous posting, I referred to a report Fr. Thomas Reese has published at National Catholic Reporter regarding Bishop Charles Scicluna’s recent address to the Canon Law Society of America. Scicluna was previously the Promoter of Justice for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican. In that capacity, he was, as Reese notes, roughly the equivalent of the Vatican’s “chief prosecutor” for cases of clerical abuse in the Catholic church.

As I read what Scicluna has to say about how canon law addresses abuse cases, I’m struck by the following:
1. The emphasis of Scicluna’s reading of canon law (and this reflects the emphasis of canon law itself) is far and away skewed in the direction of protecting the rights and serving the needs of clerics–while the rights and needs of lay Catholics, and notably of lay Catholics abused by clerics, are only distantly addressed by canon law.
2. Scicluna notes that canon law envisages three ends in any process considering the guilt of a cleric: these are “reparation of scandal, restitution of justice and the conversion of the accused.” Only the second of these ends can in any way be said to address the needs of those abused by priests, and it does so only in a glancing way.
3. What’s very clear in Scicluna’s presentation is that canon law itself sees the primary problems in an abuse case as tamping down all reports that can lead to scandal and as “converting” the priest himself. Canon law has almost no room at all for considering the needs of lay Catholics who have been sexually abused by a priest, or for addressing the hurts and mending the injuries done to those who have been abused.
4. Scicluna makes three affirmations that, to my way of thinking, are mind-boggling, in that they cannot possibly hang together, and one cannot coherently affirm all three statements at the same time:

1. Pastoral leaders must find “the courage to tell victims to move on,” to stop creating “a persona out of being victims.”

2. “A tragic consequence of abuse is the loss of faith — a loss of faith in a God who is compassionate, merciful and loving. I have met victims who have renounced the faith as a consequence of what they suffered, and my attitude is silence and prayer.”

3. “The victims evangelize us.”

As I say, these three affirmations cannot possibly hang together. How is it possible for victims to evangelize us, when we tell victims that they must move on? How can someone who is not there evangelize the rest of us?
How can someone we’ve told to consider herself or himself as less than the rest of us, as an unworthy part of the body of Christ–Just move on–possibly evangelize any of the rest of us in the body of Christ? When we make people invisible, how do they retain the ability to evangelize us, to remind us of good news?
And so in what way does it make any sense at all to speak of victims renouncing “the faith,” when the faith itself clearly renounces them by informing them that they must move on, must stop being professional victims? There is, isn’t there, something egregiously evil about blaming those who are victims for their loss of faith when we ourselves–Just move on!–have created the conditions for victims’ loss of faith by treating victims of clerical sexual abuse as less than human?
What gives any human being the right to tell another human being suffering from childhood sexual abuse that it’s time to “move on,” to stop suffering, to shut up and get over it? Where does such astonishing hubris come from on the part of Catholic pastors and canonists, and how can Catholic pastors and canonists possibly imagine that they’re behaving pastorally when they engage in such hubristic, insensitive, cruel behavior?

As long as we have bishops (with canonists who think as Rev. [Reginald] Whitt [of St. Paul-Minneapolis] does to advise them) who assume that their primary pastoral responsibility as bishops, bolstered by canon law itself, is to “save” pedophile priests while ignoring the needs of the people of God, we’ll continue to have dangerous priests placed by bishops in positions in which they’ll have access to minors. And we’ll have cover-ups.

The roots of the abuse crisis in the Catholic church begin with the very governing system of the church itself, and are inscribed in that governing system’s code of canon law, which creates a two-tiered system that allocates power exclusively to the ordained, and excludes the non-ordained from all governing power and from fundamental rights within the church. Until that deeply unjust system of governance, which is itself a recipe for abuse, is rectified, the abuse will continue. And it will continue to be covered up.

Cardinal Roger Mahony defends legacy on church abuse in blog


Cardinal Roger Mahony defends legacy on church abuse in blog

2/2/13 By Gillian Flaccus

From the link: http://news.msn.com/us/cardinal-defends-legacy-on-church-abuse-in-blog

Cardinal Roger Mahony

Cardinal Roger Mahony

On his blog on Friday, retired Cardinal Roger Mahony said he was ill-equipped to deal with sexually abusive clergy when he took over the archdiocese in 1985 and quickly sought to develop policies and consult with leaders in other dioceses.

LOS ANGELES — The public rebuke of retired Cardinal Roger Mahony for failing to take swift action against abusive priests adds tarnish to a career already overshadowed by the church sex abuse scandal but does little to change his role in the larger church.

Mahony can still act as a priest, keep his rank as cardinal and remain on a critical Vatican panel that elects the next pope.

While Archbishop Jose Gomez’s decision to strip Mahony of his administrative and public duties was unprecedented in the American Roman Catholic Church, it was another attempt by the church to accept responsibility for the abuse scandal that has engulfed it.

Victims were quick to point out that Mahony’s new, paired-down local standing was in stark contrast to his continued position among the prelates at the Vatican.

The decision “is little more than window dressing. Cardinal Mahony is still a very powerful prelate,” Joelle Casteix, the Western regional director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said at a Friday news conference outside the Los Angeles cathedral. “He’s a very powerful man in Rome and still a very powerful man in Los Angeles.”

The Vatican declined to comment Friday when asked if the Holy See would follow Gomez’s lead and take action against Mahony.

Tod Tamberg, the archdiocese spokesman, said Mahony was in Rome several weeks ago for meetings unrelated to Thursday’s announcement. He said he did not know if Pope Benedict XVI was aware of Gomez’s announcement.

The cardinal and Gomez both declined interview requests from The Associated Press.

In a letter to Gomez posted on Mahony’s blog Friday, the cardinal said he was ill-equipped to deal with sexually abusive clergy when he took over the archdiocese in 1985 and quickly sought to develop policies and consult with church leaders in other dioceses. He reminded Gomez that he was well aware when he took over in 2011 of the steps Mahony had taken to safeguard children.

“Not once over these past years did you ever raise any questions about our policies, practices, or procedures in dealing with the problem of clergy sexual misconduct involving minors. I have stated time and time again that I made mistakes, especially in the mid-1980s,” he wrote.

“Unfortunately, I cannot return now to the 1980s and reverse actions and decisions made then. But when I retired as the active Archbishop, I handed over to you an archdiocese that was second to none in protecting children and youth.”

Gomez’s public criticism is almost unheard-of in the highly structured church institution and would have been cleared by the Vatican in advance, said the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer who worked for the Vatican’s Washington, D.C., embassy.

“He’s an archbishop — he cannot order a cardinal around,” said Doyle, who co-authored a 1985 report warning of a coming clergy sex abuse scandal. “The Catholic church is a monarchy. If you’re one of the princes of the realm and you’re a duke, you don’t dump on a prince without the king’s permission or you’re no longer a duke. That’s what the deal is.”

Gomez went as far as he could within this authority, but only the Pope has the power to sanction a cardinal or laicize him, he said.

Gomez made the announcement Thursday as the church was forced by a court order to turn over thousands of pages of confidential priest personnel files after a bruising, five-year legal fight. The archbishop also accepted a resignation request from one of Mahony’s top aides, now-Bishop Thomas Curry.

The move came two weeks after other long-secret priest personnel records showed Mahony and Curry, in particular, worked behind the scenes to protect the church from the engulfing scandal.

Mahony is a member of three Vatican departments, including the Holy See’s all-important economic affairs office, and he remains a member of the College of Cardinals. At 76, he is still eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.

The Vatican’s former sex crimes prosecutor, Bishop Charles Scicluna, has said Canon Law provides for sanctioning bishops who show “malicious or fraudulent negligence” in their work, but has acknowledged that such laws have never been applied in the case of bishops who covered up sex abuse cases.

In the past, lower-ranking members of the church hierarchy who have spoken out about their superior’s handling of the clergy abuse crisis have been rebuked by the Holy See.

In 2010, for example, Viennese Cardinal Cristoph Schoenborn criticized the former Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, in an interview for his handling of a notorious sex abuse case. Schoenborn didn’t use Sodano’s name in his critique, but was nonetheless forced to come to Rome to explain himself to the pope and Sodano.

The Vatican publicly rebuked Schoenborn, saying that only the pope has authority to deal with accusations against a cardinal.

The Vatican’s silence after Thursday’s announcement indicates they were aware of it, said Patrick Wall, a former Benedictine monk and priest and vocal church critic who consults on clergy abuse cases.

“Gomez was as brilliant as a sniper the way he orchestrated this because he did not overstep his authority against the Pope and yet at the same time it appears that some type of penalty is being imposed,” said Wall. “He cannot force Mahony to resign. It’s brilliant and this has never happened in the U.S.”

Mahony will reduce his public appearances, including numerous guest lectures nationwide on immigration reform, and no longer perform confirmations, Tamberg said. However, he remains a priest in good standing and will continue to live in a North Hollywood parish and can celebrate the sacraments with no restrictions, he said.

Several of the documents in the newly released files echo recurring themes that emerged over the past decade in dioceses nationwide, where church leaders moved problem priests between parishes and didn’t call the police.

Studies commissioned by the U.S. bishops found more than 4,000 U.S. priests have faced sexual abuse allegations since the early 1950s, in cases involving more than 10,000 children — mostly boys.

In one instance, a draft of a plan with Mahony’s name on it calls for sending a molester priest to his native Spain for a minimum of seven years, paying him $400 a month and offering health insurance. In return, the cardinal would agree to write the Vatican and ask them to cancel his excommunication, leaving the door open for him to return as a priest someday.

It was unclear whether the proposed agreement was enacted.

“I am concerned that the Archdiocese may later be seen as liable — for having continued to support this man — now that we have been put on notice that one of the young adults under his influence is suicidal,” a top aide wrote in a memo about the priest to Mahony in 1995, urging him to stop paying benefits to the priest.

The cardinal added a handwritten note: “I concur — the faster, the better.”

In another case, Mahony resisted turning over a list of altar boys to police who were investigating claims against a visiting Mexican priest who was later determined to have molested 26 boys during a 10-month stint in Los Angeles. “We cannot give such a list for no cause whatsoever,” he wrote on a January 1988 memo.

Mahony, who retired in 2011 after more than a quarter-century at the helm of the archdiocese, has publicly apologized for mistakes he made in dealing with priests who molested children.

Associated Press writer Shaya Tayefe Mohajer contributed to this report.