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/ ).
Gerald T. Slevin, Update–Criminal Charges of Vatican Child Abuse Cover-Up
Monday, April 16, 2012
Cross-posted on Open Tabernacle, 16 April 2012.