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Cardinal: John Paul approved of cover-up

Cardinal: John Paul approved of cover-up

by Rod Dreher

From the Link: Cardinal: John Paul approved of cover-up

Pope John Paul II is seen giving his blessing to Father Marcial Maciel in 2004. Maciel has been accused of sexually abusing children, including his own, in a lawsuit. He died in 2008.

Pope John Paul II is seen giving his blessing to Father Marcial Maciel in 2004. Maciel has been accused of sexually abusing children, including his own, in a lawsuit. He died in 2008.

ROME (AP) — Spanish media are quoting a retired Vatican cardinal as saying the late Pope John Paul II backed his letter congratulating a French bishop for risking jail for shielding a priest convicted of raping minors.Web sites of La Verdad and other Spanish newspapers reported Saturday that Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, 80, told an audience at a Catholic university in Murcia, Spain, on Friday that he consulted with John Paul and showed him the letter. He claimed the pontiff authorized him to send the letter to bishops worldwide.La Verdad said the audience at Universidad Catolica de Murcia applauded the cardinal’s remarks.

If Castrillon Hoyos is telling the truth, then John Paul personally approved sending this letter in direct violation of the instruction Card. Ratzinger’s CDF had sent down months earlier, urging bishops in countries where the law obliges them to report knowledge of sexual crimes against children to civil authorities, to follow the law. If Castrillon Hoyos is being truthful, it would suggest that, as far as the pontiff was concerned, the Ratzinger directive was window dressing.By the way, one should not over-interpret that 2001 CDF instruction. As Msgr. Charles Scicluna of the CDF characterizes it today:

Msgr. Scicluna also emphasized that the Vatican’s insistence on secrecy in the investigation of these cases by church authorities does not mean bishops or others are exempt from reporting these crimes to civil authorities.”In some English-speaking countries, but also in France, if bishops become aware of crimes committed by their priests outside the sacramental seal of confession, they are obliged to report them to the judicial authorities. This is an onerous duty because the bishops are forced to make a gesture comparable to that of a father denouncing his own son. Nonetheless, our guidance in these cases is to respect the law,” he said.In countries where there is no legal obligation to report sex abuse accusations, Msgr. Scicluna said, “we do not force bishops to denounce their own priests, but encourage them to contact the victims and invite them to denounce the priests by whom they have been abused.”

Anyway, what Card. Castrillon Hoyos said in Spain is very big news. It’s the first time to my knowledge that someone who was in the curial inner circle under John Paul II has publicly said that the late pontiff encouraged a policy of covering up for clerical sex abuse. That’s a bombshell.By the way, do note how the laity who heard Castrillon Hoyos reacted to his admission: they applauded. People who believe the Church scandal is simply a matter of an out-of-touch clerical leadership squared off against a laity that wants to know the truth, and wants true reform, should consider this. It’s not that simple, at all. If you wonder why some victims of abuse waited years to come out about what was done to them, you have part of your answer right there. Many laymen were quite willing to collaborate with evil to keep a truth they found intolerable to contemplate buried. Some still are. It’s human nature. You can see it every day, if you look. UPDATE: John Allen of NCR adds some context:

That congregation was led by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the man who is now the pope, and who is credited with taking a more aggressive approach to sex abuse cases. In effect, the thrust of the Vatican statement was to suggest that Castrillon letter illustrated the problems that Ratzinger faced in kick-starting the Vatican into action.On Friday, however, during at a conference at a Catholic university in Murcia, Spain, the 81-year-old Castrillon insisted that he had shown the letter in advance to John Paul II, and that the late pope had authorized him not only to send it but to eventually post it on the internet. Castrillon said that the issue at stake in his letter was protection of the seal of the confessional. The cardinal said he was applauding Pican for maintaining the sanctity of the sacrament, and cited canon 983 of the Code of Canon Law, concerning the confessional. Some analysts have questioned whether the sanctity of the confessional directly applies in this case, since Pican said in 2001 that he had discussed the case with the victims and with another priest. French law recognizes the seal of the confessional as part of a protected category of “professional secrets,” but makes an exception for crimes committed against minors. According to reports in the Spanish media, senior church officials at the conference, including two Vatican cardinals, applauded when Castrillon issued his defense.Beyond the specific question of the confessional, Castrillon has long been among those church leaders who argue that bishops should not be put in the position of reporting their priests to the police or other authorities, on the grounds that it disrupts a father/son relationship with his clergy. Instead, such leaders suggest, bishops should encourage the victims themselves to make a report.

Here is a translation of Castrillon Hoyos’s letter to the French bishop. Assuming this translation is correct, I don’t see where this has anything to do with the seal of the confessional. The cardinal is not relying on the seal to make his argument here:

September 8, 2001Most Reverend Excellency:I am writing to you as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, charged with collaborating in the responsibility of the common Father over all the priests of the world.I congratulate you for not having denounced a priest to the civil administration. You have acted well, and I rejoice to have a brother in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all the other bishops of the world, has preferred prison rather than denouncing his priest-son.In reality, the relationship between priests and their bishop is not professional; it is a sacramental relationship, which creates very special bonds of spiritual paternity. This theme has been amply taken up again by the last Council, by the 1971 Synod of Bishops and the one in 1991. The bishop has other means of acting, as the Episcopal Conference of France has recently recalled; but a bishop cannot be required to denounce [him] himself. In all civilized legal systems it is recognized that close relatives have the opportunity not to testify against a direct relative.We recall to you in your regard the words of St. Paul: “My imprisonment has become well known in Christ throughout the whole Praetorium and to all the rest, and the majority of the brothers, having taken encouragement in the Lord from my imprisonment, dare more than ever to proclaim the word fearlessly” (Phil. 1:13-14).This Congregation, in order to encourage brothers in the episcopate in this very sensitive area, will send copies of this letter to all the conferences of bishops.Assuring you of my fraternal closeness in the Lord, I greet you with your auxiliary and the whole of your diocese.Dario Castrillon H

David Gibson adds more context — and creates more confusion:

Whether Ratzinger himself was on board with mandatory reporting to authorities is also unclear. In February 2002, Ratzinger’s top lieutenant at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, said new internal church norms he and Ratzinger just completed to help bishops deal with abusers would not compel them to hand over molesters.”It seems to me that there is no basis for demanding that a bishop, for example, be obliged to turn to civil magistrates and denounce a priest that has confided in him to have committed the crime of pedophilia,” Bertone told the Italian Catholic monthly, 30 Giorni.After Ratzinger was elected pope, he made Bertone a cardinal and named him his secretary of state, basically the second-in-command at the Vatican.

UPDATE.2: Wow, that Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos is a world-class knothead. Check out this amazing interview translated by Austen Ivereigh at the (Jesuit) America magazine blog. Excerpt below the jump:

A glimpse of that attitude was on vivid display in an April 11 interview that Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos — who along with Cardinal Law (formerly of Boston) is one of the leaders of the movement behind the restoration of traditionalist liturgy — gave to the Spanish-language CNN. My translation:”As prefect of the Congregation for Clergy I had meetings with scientists. And there was one group of scientists who said that the paedophile doesn’t exist; there exist persons who commit acts of paedophilia, but the illness of paedophilia doesn’t exist. So, when one person makes a mistake, which is often a minimal error, that person is accused – that person confesses his crime, or is shown his crime — the bishop punishes him according to what [canon] law allows: he suspends him, takes him out of a parish for a time, then sends him to another parish. He is correcting him. This is not a crime, this is not a cover-up, this is following the law just as civil society does in the case of doctors and lawyers – in other words, it’s not about taking away the chance of them exercising their profession for ever.”So you mean, asks Patricia Janiot, that for the Church sex abuse of minors is not a crime? Castrillon-Hoyos loses his rag in a flash of arrogance.”Patricia, for the love of God, don’t you understand what I’m saying? Am I speaking a foreign language? I’m talking in Castilian. The Church punishes paedophilia as a very serious crime – do I have to repeat this a thousand times? — but punishes it according to the law. The fact that it is a serious crime does not authorize a bishop to punish without following the processes to which the accused has a right.”When Janiot asks him about those processes, the cardinal talks about the need for corroborative evidence and witnesses but quickly adds that even when these exist, “when you factor in the enormous sums of money which are benefiting large numbers of people in relation to these crimes, we all have the right to question the honesty of those cases.”Janiot then asks him whether, if Pope John Paul II had acted more decisively to clear up the mishandling of abuse cases, Pope Benedict would not have inherited such a large problem. Castrillon-Hoyos is having none of it.”Pope John Paul did everything he should have done, and did so within the clearest norms of justice, charity, and of equity, – he did exactly what he should have done to maintain the purity of the Church. He did exactly what he should have done. I am witness to his worries and his pains. It is very easy to have news stories about cases which have not proved in which the image of the clergy is far from reality – this does not mean that there have not been painful cases in the Church; he knew of them, and he punished them. Show me one single case – I challenge people – one known case anywhere in the world where a case has been proved where the delinquent has not been punished.””What about the case of Fr Maciel?” Janiot answers. “This was never brought to justice. He died, never having been tried.”Cardinal Castrillon’s eyes look sharply to the left, to where an adviser or lawyer is obviously sitting. He then turns back to the camera. “Non ti rispondo”, he answers (in Italian, oddly). The interview is over.


How the Vatican evades human rights obligations through Canon Law, diplomatic immunity and other dodges

How the Vatican evades human rights obligations through Canon Law, diplomatic immunity and other dodges

From the Link: How the Vatican evades human rights obligations through Canon Law, diplomatic immunity and other dodges

The Vatican

The Vatican

The Vatican doesn’t acknowledge human rights unless they are in accordance with Church doctrine. Its courts have been found by the EU to violate the right to a fair trial. And the Vatican has even maintained that its signature to one of the few human rights treaties it has signed (and even then with “reservations”) only applies to its own territory and not to the Catholic Church.

“One cannot then appeal to these rights of man in order to oppose the interventions of the Magisterium.”
— Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1990 [1]

The Vatican not only quietly rejects the supremacy of human rights in principle, it also cultivates effective ways to get around having to implement them.

♦ Diplomatic recognition, sought worldwide, brings diplomatic immunity from charges of human rights abuse

The doctrine of sovereign immunity has its roots in the law of feudal England and is based on the idea that the ruler can do no wrong. In US law this is broadly applied to the heads of foreign states. [2] It was sovereign immunity that foiled an American attempt to sue Benedict XVI for the Vatican’s handling of child abuse by priests. The Church lawyers argued that the pope, as the Vatican’s head of state, enjoys immunity against lawsuits in US courts. [3]

In U.S. courts foreign countries are also generally immune from civil actions, with exemptions primarily for commercial acts. This means that unless a case can be brought in under an exemption the only recourse may be to try to sue the Vatican in a country which does not have diplomatic relations with it. However, as the map shows, most of the world’s countries (coloured blue) already recognise the statehood of the Holy See, as the Vatican is called officially.

There are very few (gray) countries left which don’t yet have diplomatic relations with the Holy See. These amount to just three island nations (the Comoros, north of Madagascar, theMaldives, southwest of India, and Tuvalu, north of New Zealand) — two African nations (Mauritania and Somalia) — three from the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Oman and Afghanistan) — and eight from Asia (Bhutan, People’s Republic of China, North Korea, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia). [4]


The logistics of suing the Vatican from some of these countries could be daunting. Furthermore, due to the Vatican’s persistent diplomatic efforts, the number of countries which don’t recognise the Vatican is declining every year. (And one of the few left, Tuvalu, is gradually disappearing beneath the rising seas).

The Vatican’s web of diplomatic relations also makes its representatives immune to prosecution under international law. The 1961 Vienna Convention tries to provide diplomats with the security needed to perform their jobs. It is thanks to this treaty that states now express their displeasure by expelling the diplomats of a foreign country, rather than imprisoning them.

Diplomatic immunity in action: Archbishop Wesolowski is whisked away to the Vatican

However, this treaty was never meant to allow accused rapists of children to go free. Yet this appeared to be the intention when Bishop Paul Gallagher, the papal nuncio or pope’s ambassador to Australia refused to hand over to prosecutors documents on two priests who had abused more than 100 children over 40 years. [5] The nuncio invoked diplomatic immunity. However, as a UN committee later reminded the Vatican, [6] as a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it was obliged to hand over this evidence. [7] Pope Francis was apparently so pleased by the nuncio’s attempts to block justice in Australia’s worst clerical abuse scandal, that the next year he promoted him to archbishop and to the number three post in his kingdom  the Vatican’s Foreign Minister. [8]

as happened in the Dominican Republic. [9] There on June 24, 2013 a deacon was arrested and admitted to procuring impoverished boys to be sexually abused by the papal nuncio Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski. [10] By the time the deacon appeared on TV and said that others in the Church knew about this [11] the nuncio had vanished. He had been secretly whisked away and reappeared in the Vatican.

At the TV station they suspected that there had been a leak.

A “dossier” accusing papal nuncio Archbishop Josef Wesolowski of sex abuse of minors was sent to Pope Francis sometime in July [2013] by Santo Domingo Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez. The pope found the information credible enough to dismiss Wesolowski, nuncio to both the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, on Aug. 21 via confidential letter N.2706/PR to the bishops of both countries.

Neither the civil authorities nor the public knew about Wesolowski until a local TV program did an exposé on Aug. 31. The result of a year-long investigation, the broadcast contained testimony from residents of the Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo that Wesolowski paid minors for sex.

Three days after the TV broadcast, a local bishop confirmed that Wesolowski had been recalled for sexually abusing minors.

Wesolowski reportedly had left the country only a few days before. [12]

In this case the Vatican acted against its own much-touted guidelines:

the church failed to inform the local authorities of the evidence against him, secretly recalled him to Rome […] before he could be investigated, and then invoked diplomatic immunity for Mr. Wesolowski so that he could not face trial in the Dominican Republic. [13]

Once he was safely in Rome the Vatican “confirmed that Wesolowski is a citizen of the Vatican city state, that the Vatican doesn’t extradite its citizens and that as a nuncio, or Holy See ambassador, Wesolowski enjoys full diplomatic immunity”. [14] Experts in international law say that the Vatican could have lifted the nuncio’s diplomatic immunity to let him face trial in the Dominical Republic (which could hardly be accused of having an anti-Catholic judiciary). [15]

However, the Church came under increasing pressure when the United Nations Committee against Torture stepped in. In June 2014 it urged the Vatican, if the investigation warranted it, to either try Wesolowski itself under the Vatican State criminal code (not canon law) or let someone else do so — and report back on the outcome. [16]

In August 2014, the Vatican gave Wesolwski a secret canon law trial to determine if he had violated Church doctrine. The Vatican tribunal found Wesolwski’s guilty of abusing young boys and defrocked him. But it refused to provide any information about his whereabouts or how he pleaded to the charges and refused to release contact information for his lawyer. [17] This deprived Mr. Wesolowski of his diplomatic immunity — so the Vatican then fell back on his Vatican State citizenship as the reason for not handing him over.

To avoid further challenges to its jurisdiction, the Vatican refused to provide the necessary documents to Polish prosecutors, who had hoped to try Wesolowski, a dual Vatican-Polish citizen. [18] The Vatican also got the Dominican Republic to fall into line. In August 2014, the day after Wesolowski lost his diplomatic immunity, the Santo Dominican prosecutor’s office announced that it was launching an investigation. [19] However, by the end of the year, the Dominican Republic’s top prosecutor was expressing “appreciation and satisfaction” with the Vatican’s actions (!) and said that the Vatican was the right place for the trial. [20] The Dominican authorities even stonewalled the legal inquiries of Polish prosecutors about Wesolowski, [21] which forced Poland to suspend its inquiry. [22] This cleared the way for the Vatican to conduct its own trial under the criminal law of its own state, which would satisfy the UN commitee, but keep control over the proceedings.

A Polish expert on church law, Prof. Pawel Borecki, explained why the Vatican was determined to maintain control:

“The Vatican will seek that this case does not go beyond its borders. Wesolowski is a high-ranking diplomat. He has knowledge of how the Roman curia works. He may also know about pedophilia in the church and if other high-ranking priests are involved in the crime. In a trial abroad he could reveal everything. Therefore, we can expect that the Vatican will not release him and it will hand down a severe punishment.” [23]

♦ Keeping out of key human rights treaty shields Vatican courts from international standards

The Vatican can’t be censured for violating the right to a fair trial which is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights because it hasn’t signed the treaty. Instead, in a 2001 court case, it was Italy that was faulted for enforcing the unfair judgement of the Vatican court.

In essence the European Court of Human Rights found in 2001 that the procedures of the Roman Rota, the ecclesiastical appeals court responsible for marriage-annulment applications, failed to reach the standards required for a fair trial under article 6(1) of the European Convention and that, therefore, its judgments could not properly be recognized and enforced under Italian law. ECHR noted that in Rota proceedings witness statements were not provided to parties, thus depriving the parties of an opportunity to comment on them. The parties were not advised that they could appoint lawyers to appear for them, nor advised of the terms of the legal submissions made by the canon lawyer appointed by the court to argue against annulment. Finally, the parties were refused sight of a full copy of the Rota’s judgment, in which the ecclesiastical court set out its reasoning. Given these circumstances, the Strasbourg court took the view that justice was not done in annulment proceedings before church courts. [24]

“As new scandals erupt in Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Brazil and Nigeria, the Pope has failed to put in place and enforce mandatory child protection policy across his church. I asked a senior church figure why this was the case. I was told that to put in place global policy underpinned by church law would admit that the Vatican had the responsibility and the power to do so, and expose it to lawsuits and potentially massive financial losses.” ― Colm O'Gorman, Independent, 9 March 2010

“As new scandals erupt in Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Brazil and Nigeria, the Pope has failed to put in place and enforce mandatory child protection policy across his church. I asked a senior church figure why this was the case. I was told that to put in place global policy underpinned by church law would admit that the Vatican had the responsibility and the power to do so, and expose it to lawsuits and potentially massive financial losses.” ― Colm O’Gorman, Independent, 9 March 2010

♦ Damage limitation, part 1: Blame the bishops

If the Vatican doesn’t sign a human rights treaty, it’s easier to confine blame (and costs) to the local bishop. This helps the Vatican deny all responsibility for what is done in the Church worldwide. Thus the Vatican’s top prosecutor admits no fault on the part of the Church watchdog body, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith which, under Cardinal Ratzinger (now the present pope), dealt with abuse cases. [25]

♦ Damage limitation, part 2: Blame the priests

Even better, from the Vatican’s point of view, is to place sole blame on the errant priests.

In the US Vatican lawyers argued that Roman Catholic clerics are not officials or employees of the Holy See. [26] This is now the main Vatican defence against lawsuits in the United States seeking to hold the Holy See liable for the failure of its bishops to stop priests from raping and molesting children.

Usually foreign countries are immune from civil actions in U.S. courts, but there are exceptions to the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act which courts have said were applicable in this case. The statute says that plaintiffs can establish subject matter jurisdiction over a foreign sovereign, if a crime was committed in the United States by any official or employee of the foreign state and that the crimes were committed within the scope of employment. [27]

In the UK the same argument is being repeated. The English Catholic Church said priests are self-employed and thus it’s not responsible for victim compensation. Mindful of the dioceses in the US which were obliged to pay compensation to victims of clerical abuse and in some cases have gone bankrupt, [28] it has tried to argue that priests are self-employed. [29] However, in a High Court ruling on 8 November 2011 the judge rejected that argument, stating that the relationship between a priest and his bishop is sufficiently close so as to impose responsibility. According to the alleged victim’s lawyer, “This is a key decision with potentially far-reaching implications, effectively extending the principle of vicarious liability”. [30]

There are other theological variations on the responsibility theme: Whereas the Catholic Church says that its priests are self-employed, the Church of England, in order to avoid giving its priests workers’ rights, claimed they were employed by God. [31] And since 2008 it has said that they are “office holders”, in other words, employed by no one.

In Australia, too, the Vatican tries to hold the priests, and not the Church, legally liable in cases of abuse. It does through the remarkable claim, supported in a 2007 decision by the Supreme Court of New South Wales, that the “Catholic Church” does not exist as a single legal entity. [32] Therefore it cannot be sued; it cannot be held responsible for the behaviour of individuals who work in its “unincorporated associations”. Victims of assault could sue the responsible individuals or their unincorporated associations but it would be pointless; the individual religious take vows of poverty and the unincorporated associations own nothing. [33]

However, in 2014 Cardinal George Pell suggested that the Australian Church was no more responsible for priests’ crimes than any other organisation was for its employees. [34] Yes, employees.

♦ Damage limitation, part 3: Blame religious orders then let them refuse to pay

The English High Court and Court of Appeal both ruled that a Catholic diocese was liable to compensate the boys in a Catholic home who had been beaten, kicked and raped. However, that didn’t stop the diocese from claiming that a religious order was responsible and refusing to pay. And, of course, the order also denied any responsibility. [35] By 2012 the legal proceedings had been dragging on for eight years and due to the strain, many of the broken victims had dropped out of the process. [36]

And in Ireland where the Catholic Church and 19 religious orders agreed to split the compensation 50-50, the orders, one after another, have refused to pay. As of 2012 this had been going on for ten years. [37]

Even the four orders of Catholic nuns who ran the Magdalene Laundries and profited from what amounted to slave labour have refused to pay. [38] The Good Shepherd Sisters, The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, The Sisters of Mercy and The Sisters of Charity are keeping all the profits from selling prime real estate when their gulags were shut down are refusing to share this with their victims. [39]

In Canada it’s the same story. Eight Catholic orders ran the orphanages and psychiatric hospitals in the Province of Quebec. Federal subsidies were greater for psychiatric hospitals than for orphanages, so to maximise the profits, large numbers of normal children were “diagnosed” as feeble-minded or insane. In both kinds of Church-run institutions the children were subjected to unimaginable brutality and many died. Yet neither the orders involved nor the Vatican are willing to pay any compensation to the traumatised survivors. [40]

Since the pope is the head of every Catholic religious order, they must be doing this with his consent. As David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, writes,

The Catholic church isn’t some loosely-knit hippie commune. It’s a rigid, secretive, tightly-knit institution. So when crimes happen, it’s disingenuous for church officials to pretend that everyone involved is disconnected from one another. [41]

♦ Damage limitation, part 4: Blame the victim

In a sworn deposition in 2011 the bishop of Syracuse actually said that the victims of child-molesting priests are partly to blame for their own abuse. [42]

♦ Damage limitation, part 5: Lobby against extending the time limits for suing the Church

Many victims are unable to talk about abuse or face their accusers until they reach their 30s, 40s or later, putting the crime beyond the reach of the law. Yet in some US states, like New York, the victim is required to come forth by age 23. The US Supreme Court ruled that changes in criminal limits (statues of limitation) cannot be retroactive, so that any extension of present ones they will affect only recent and future crimes. [43] However, even this the Catholic Church is lobbying to prevent. If it succeeds, then the time limits can prevent penalties being applied for human rights abuses. Even when the Church admits it knew about the abuse, the priest admits that he did it, and there is independent evidence to back this up, “if the statute of limitations has expired, there won’t be any justice”. [44]

♦ Damage limitation, part 6: other “evasions and machinations” 

These include (but are not confined to):

— Spending millions of dollars to fight sexual abuse lawsuits and keeping sealed the names of thousands of accused priests, as well as the outcomes of some disciplinary cases sent to the Vatican. [45]

— Hiding funds to avoid compensating victims. In 2007 a judge in informed the Diocese of San Diego that its attempt to shift the diocese’s assets while the case was pending violated bankruptcy laws. [46] And that same year the Vatican allowed the Milwaukee archdiocese to transfer $57 million into a trust for Catholic cemetery maintenance, where it might be better protected, as Archbishop Dolan wrote, “from any legal claim and liability.” [47]

— Legal quibbles of all kinds. For instance, in 2011 church leaders in St. Louis claimed not to be liable for an abusive priest because while he had gotten to know a victim on church property, the abuse itself happened elsewhere. [48]

— Going after honest clerics who act as whistleblowers. A group of priests and nuns formed in 2013 says the Roman Catholic Church is still protecting sexual predators. Calling themselves the Catholic Whistleblowers, they say that priests who spoke up have been “removed from their parishes, hustled into retirement or declared ‘unstable’ and sent to treatment centres for clergy with substance-abuse problems or sexual addictions.” [49]

— Subjecting the victims to an oath of secrecy. This is the oath that the victims of the Irish paedophile priest Father Brendan Smyth were obliged to swear before Cardinal Sean Brady in 1975 when he was a priest and professor of canon law: [50]

“I will never directly or indirectly, by means of a nod, or of a word, by writing, or in any other way, and under whatever type of pretext, even for the most urgent and most serious cause (even) for the purpose of a greater good, commit anything against this fidelity to the secret, unless a…dispensation has been expressly given to me by the Supreme Pontiff.” [51]

— Tipping off accused clerics to allow destruction of evidence. In Australia in 2002, when a bishop learned that a child victim of one of his priests had gone to the police, he drove to a neighbouring town to warn him. This gave the priest, who was later comnvicted for repeatedly raping four children, the chance to destroy incriminating evidence. [52]

— Witness intimidation. In Germany in 2009 the Catholic Church hired detectives who turned at the homes of abused children and tried to get them retract their claims against one of its priests. [53]

— Hush money. In Australia in 2015 the nephew of a priest said that Cardinal Pell had tried to bribe him to keep quiet about abuse by his uncle. [54] And this tactic was proven to have been used in Germany in 1999, when cash payments were made to the parents of abused children at the same time as they signed agreement to remain silent. See Money for silence.

 It has been plausibly claimed that “the failure of the Vatican to promulgate a mandatory worldwide code of conduct, with a reporting requirement (for child abuse)...stems precisely from a fear of acknowledging its authority over national churches and implicitly conceding that priests and bishops, whom it appoints, are actually its agents in a legal sense.” — Patrick Smyth

It has been plausibly claimed that “the failure of the Vatican to promulgate a mandatory worldwide code of conduct, with a reporting requirement (for child abuse)…stems precisely from a fear of acknowledging its authority over national churches and implicitly conceding that priests and bishops, whom it appoints, are actually its agents in a legal sense.” — Patrick Smyth

♦ The Church follows its own Canon Law (which can be changed by a stroke of the papal pen) and must be forced to comply with civil law which is based on human rights

Amnesty International criticised the Vatican in its 2011 report, claiming it “did not sufficiently comply with its international obligations relating to the protection of children”. AI pointed out that the Vatican enlarged its own definition of “crimes in canon law” beyond “the sexual abuse of minors” ― but not the punishments

Amendments to the canon law promulgated in May introduced the “delicts” of paedophile pornography and abuse of mentally disabled people; the maximum punishment for these “delicts” is dismissal or deposition. Canon law does not include an obligation for Church authorities to report cases to civil authorities for criminal investigation. Secrecy is mandatory throughout the proceedings. [55]

As if the record unpunished priest abusers were not proof enough, a letter written in 2001 by a senior Vatican official has come to light praising a French bishop when he was convicted of failing to report a paedophile priest to the police. In 2010 the Bishop was given a three-month suspended prison sentence for not denouncing the priest, who was sentenced to 18 years in jail in 2000 for sexually abusing 11 boys. [56]

However, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, Prefect of the Congregation of the Clergy, told the Bishop, “I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil authorities.” And he concludes the letter to the French bishop by holding up the Bishops’ behaviour as a model for others; “This Congregation, in order to encourage brothers in the episcopate in this delicate matter, will forward a copy of this letter to all the conferences of bishops.” [57]

The Cardinal said afterwards that his letter was about protecting the seal of the confessional in accordance with Church law (Canon 983), but there is no mention of this in the text itself and at his trial the Bishop disputed this. [58] However, even if this were true, this would not hold in France which has apparently legislated a “duty to report” where children are involved. “French law recognises the seal of the confessional as part of a protected category of ‘professional secrets’, but makes an exception for crimes committed against minors”. [59]

 “Clericalism has many faces.  It is the delusion that priests speak for the Almighty and therefore are entitled to special treatment and even immunity from accountability for criminal behavior. It is the source of the conviction held by many, including top-level Vatican officials, that the legal systems of secular society are subordinate to Canon Law, the Catholic Church’s own system of governance.” ― Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., J.C.D.

“Clericalism has many faces. It is the delusion that priests speak for the Almighty and therefore are entitled to special treatment and even immunity from accountability for criminal behavior. It is the source of the conviction held by many, including top-level Vatican officials, that the legal systems of secular society are subordinate to Canon Law, the Catholic Church’s own system of governance.”
― Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., J.C.D.

Later the Cardinal also dropped a bombshell. He claimed that, “After consulting the pope, I wrote a letter to the bishop, congratulating him as a model of a father who does not turn in his children.” [60]

If Castrillon Hoyos is telling the truth, then John Paul personally approved sending this letter in direct violation of the instruction Card[inal] Ratzinger’s CDF had sent down months earlier, urging bishops in countries where the law obliges them to report knowledge of sexual crimes against children to civil authorities, to follow the law. If Castrillon Hoyos is being truthful, it would suggest that, as far as the pontiff was concerned, the Ratzinger directive was window dressing. [61]

The Church record of stonewalling criminal investigations certainly suggests that, until and unless forced to do otherwise, Canon Law, the legal system of the Catholic Church, is all the Church feels bound to follow. The outspoken Monsignor Maurice Dooley, an expert on Canon Law, has even stated this publicly. In 2002 he declared that bishops did not have to tell the Irish police about paedophile clerics and might even shelter these priests. “As far as the Church is concerned, its laws come first.” [62] And in April 2010 the Brazilian Archbishop Dadeus Grings concurred, saying that priestly abuse was a matter of internal church discipline, not something to report to the police. “For the church to go and accuse its own sons would be a little strange.” [63]

And even senior churchmen claiming that it is Church policy to report suspected abuse to the police have been found to be lying. In Australia, for instance, despite assurances by a bishop that the church had enforced strict rules to ensure such cases were reported to the police as a “matter of absolute policy’”, he and an archbishop secretly defrocked an abuser who was assured that “your good name will be protected by the confidential nature of this process”. [64]

In 2014 a United Nations committee severely criticised the Vatican’s handling of abuse cases and its failure to comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The panel rejected the church’s key contention that the Vatican has no jurisdiction over its bishops and priests around the world, and is responsible for putting in effect the Convention on the Rights of the Child only within the tiny territory of Vatican City. By ratifying the convention, the panel said, the Vatican took responsibility for making sure it was respected by individuals and institutions under the Holy See’s authority around the world. [65]

To this the Vatican replied by using its usual shell game, switching between its three identities, as dictated by expediency:  “The Committee has overlooked important distinctions between the Holy See, Vatican City State and the universal Catholic Church.” [66]

Further reading about the Pope and the law

Geoffrey Robertson, QC, “Put the pope in the dock. Legal immunity cannot hold. The Vatican should feel the full weight of international law”, Guardian, 2 April 2010. [This is a proposal to prosecute the Vatican under criminal law, where diplomatic immunity does not apply, but where an arrest could only be made in a country (like the UK, but not the US) which has signed the Statute of the International Criminal Court.]

“Call to treat Vatican as a rogue state: Lawyer Geoffrey Robertson says the church must abandon canon law”,Sydney Morning Herald, 9 September 2010.

Afua Hirsch, “Canon law has allowed abuse priests to escape punishment, says lawyer”, Guardian, 7 September 2010.

Alan Duke, “Lawsuit demands Vatican name priests accused of sex abuse”, CNN, 22 April 2010.  “Pope Benedict XVI was named as a defendant because he has the ultimate authority to remove priests and because of his involvement in reviewing sex abuse cases when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the suit says.” [This is a suit under civil law and, as the US has recognised the Holy See by establishing diplomatic relations with it, this suit depends upon proving that the Holy See acted in a manner which removes its immunity, as outlined above.]

Further reading about the Pope and the law

Geoffrey Robertson, QC, “Put the pope in the dock. Legal immunity cannot hold. The Vatican should feel the full weight of international law”, Guardian, 2 April 2010. [This is a proposal to prosecute the Vatican under criminal law, where diplomatic immunity does not apply, but where an arrest could only be made in a country (like the UK, but not the US) which has signed the Statute of the International Criminal Court.]

“Call to treat Vatican as a rogue state: Lawyer Geoffrey Robertson says the church must abandon canon law”,Sydney Morning Herald, 9 September 2010.

Afua Hirsch, “Canon law has allowed abuse priests to escape punishment, says lawyer”, Guardian, 7 September 2010.

Alan Duke, “Lawsuit demands Vatican name priests accused of sex abuse”, CNN, 22 April 2010.  “Pope Benedict XVI was named as a defendant because he has the ultimate authority to remove priests and because of his involvement in reviewing sex abuse cases when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the suit says.” [This is a suit under civil law and, as the US has recognised the Holy See by establishing diplomatic relations with it, this suit depends upon proving that the Holy See acted in a manner which removes its immunity, as outlined above.]


  1. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Instruction: Donum veritatis, On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian”, 1990-03-24, #36.
  2. “”Immunity”, The Free Dictionary.
  3. John L. Allen Jr, “The autonomy of bishops, and suing the Vatican”, National Catholic Reporter, 21 May 2010.
  4. Sandro Magister, “The Holy See’s Diplomatic Net. Latest Acquisition: Russia”, Chiesa, 14 January 2010.
    The Holy See does not yet have relations with sixteen countries, most of them in Asia, many of them with majority Muslim populations. There is no Vatican representative in nine of these countries: Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Bhutan, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, the Maldives, Oman, Tuvalu, and Vietnam. While in seven other countries there are apostolic delegates, pontifical representatives to the local Catholic communities but not to the government. Three of these countries are African: the Comoros, Mauritania, and Somalia. And four of them are Asian: Brunei, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar.
  5. “Australian abuse inquiry faces diplomatic standoff with Vatican”, National Catholic Reporter, 19 December 2013.
  6. [UN] Committee against Torture, Concluding observations on the initial report of the Holy See, 17 June 201, #14.
  7. See article 6.1, “Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.” Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution A/RES/54/263 of 25 May 2000, entered into force on 18 January 2002,
  8. “British archbishop who claimed diplomatic immunity to avoid handing documents to paedophile investigators is promoted to third highest role in Vatican by the Pope”, Daily Mail, 10 November 2014.
  9. “Dominican Republic says Vatican to handle landmark sex abuse case”, Agence France-Presse, 1 December 2014.
  10. Laurie Goodstein, “Vatican Defrocks Ambassador in Abuse Inquiry”, New York Times, 27 June 2014.
  11. . “Priests accused of child sex abuse to stand trial in Poland?”, Radio Poland, 16 October 2013.
  12. Betty Clermont, “Pope Francis Concealed His Actions Against Two Prelates. Now Both ‘Whereabouts are Unknown’”, Daily Kos, 29 September 2013.
  13. Laurie Goodstein, “For Nuncio Accused of Abuse, Dominicans Want Justice at Home, Not Abroad”, New York Times, 23 August 2014.
  14. “Vatican to Polish prosecutor: we don’t extradite”, Associated Press, 11 January 2014.
  15. Laurie Goodstein, “For Nuncio Accused of Abuse, Dominicans Want Justice at Home, Not Abroad”, New York Times, 23 August 2014
  16. The United Nations Committee against Torture said on 17 June 2014, ref CAT/C/VAT/CO/1:

    13. The Committee appreciates the confirmation provided regarding the ongoing investigation under the Vatican City State Criminal Code of allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, former papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic. The Committee notes that the Republic of Poland has reportedly requested the extradition of Archbishop Wesolowski. The Committee also is concerned that the State party did not identify any case to date in which it has prosecuted an individual responsible for the commission of or complicity or participation in a violation of the Convention (arts. 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8).

    The State party should ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation of Archbishop Wesolowski and any other persons accused of perpetrating or being complicit in violations of the Convention who are nationals of the State party or are present on the territory of the State party. If warranted, the State party should ensure such persons are criminally prosecuted or extradited for prosecution by the civil authorities of another State party. The Committee requests the State party to provide it with information on the outcome of the investigation concerning Archbishop Wesolowski.

  17. “Dominican court opens case on ex-Vatican official”, Associated Press, 31 August 2014.
  18. “Poland Suspends Inquiry Into a Former Vatican Envoy”, New York Times, 22 December 2014.
  19. “Dominican court opens case on ex-Vatican official”, Associated Press, 31 August 2014.
  20. “Dominican prosecutor OKs Vatican sex abuse case”, Associated Press, 2 December 2014.
  21. “Poland suspends paedophilia investigation against archbishop”, Polski Radio, 19 December 2014.
  22. “Poland Suspends Inquiry Into a Former Vatican Envoy”, New York Times, 22 December 2014.
  23. Donald Snyder, “Venue debated for trial of former nuncio accused of abusing minors”, National Catholic Reporter, 6 September 2014.
  24. Pellegrini v. Italy, 2001-VIII, Application No: 30882/96
  25. Laurie Goodstein, “U.N. Panel Criticizes the Vatican Over Sexual Abuse”, New York Times, 5 February 2014.
  26. Stoyan Zaimov, “Catholic Church Not Employer of Pedophile Priests, US Judge Rules”, Christian Post, 22 August 2014.
  27. “Bishops who mishandle abuse must be accountable, says Vatican official”, Catholic Herald, 8 February 2012.
  28. “Pope-bishop relationship key in sex abuse defense”, AP, 18 May 2010.
  29. “Settlements and bankruptcies in [American] Catholic sex abuse cases”, Wikipedia.
  30. “Catholic bishop criticises ruling on church liability for actions of priests”, Guardian, 15 November 2011.
    Crispian Hollis, Bishop of Portsmouth, “The Diocese, Fr Wilf Baldwin and the High Court Judgment”, 10 November 2011.
  31. “Catholic Church responsible for child abuse, High Court rules”, The Lawyer, 9 November 2011.
  32. Jonathan Petre, “Clergy close to workers’ rights”, Telegraph, 19 January 2004.
  33. Trustees of the Roman Catholic Church V Ellis & Anor [2007] NSWCA 117 (24 May 2007).
  34. Australian Cardinal angers abuse victims, The Tablet, 22 August 2014.
  35. Glen Coulton, letter to Sydney Morning Herald, 6 February 2011.
  36. “Church abuse case goes to highest court”, The Times, 23 July 2012.
  37. “Roman Catholic church stalls on £8m child abuse claims“, Observer, 15 November 2009
  38. “Counting the cost of abuse redress”, Irish Examiner, 01 October 2012
  39. “Kenny: I can’t force orders to contribute to Magdalenes redress fund”, Breaking News IE, 17 July 2013.
  40. Conor Ryan, “Site by laundry grave sold for €61.8m”, Irish Examiner, 05 July 2011.
  41. Petition concerning the Duplessis Orphans, presented to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, on behalf of the Duplessis Orphans, by Dr. Jonathan Levy and Rod Vienneau, 15 April 2011. This is a reliable summary, as any factual inaccuracies would expose this human rights lawyer to charges of perjury, as explained at the end of the document.
  42. “Child victims partly to blame in priest sex-abuse cases, Syracuse bishop testified”,, 13 September 2015.
  43. “Judge: Try Philadelphia priests, official together”, AP, 29 July 2011.
  44. Marci A. Hamilton, “Why ensuring accountability for clergy sexual abuse of children has proved so difficult, even though it remains so crucial”, Findlaw, 6 May 2004.
  45. Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University who represents plaintiffs in sexual abuse suits, quoted in “Church Battles Efforts to Ease Sex Abuse Suits”, New York Times, 14 June 2012.
  46. “Ahead of Pope Francis’ Visit, Survivors of Sexual Abuse Take Stock”, New York Times, 15 September 2015.
  47. Amnesty International, Annual Report, 2011: “Vatican”.
  48. “Dolan Sought to Protect Church Assets, Files Show”, New York Times, 1 July 2013.
    “Appeals court: Judge erred on Milwaukee archdiocese fund”, AP, 10 March 2015.
  49. “Judge Orders External Audit of San Diego Diocese Accounts”, Associated Press, carried in San Luis Obispo Tribune, 11 April 2007.
  50. “Abuse victims criticise Brady’s decision to stay”, BBC News, 18 May 2010.
  51. “Revealed: the oath Brady, Smyth and the children swore”, Irish Independent, 3 December 2012.
  52. “Courage puts shame ‘squarely where it belongs'”, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 July 2013.
  53. “Church Whistle-Blowers Join Forces on Abuse”, New York Times, 20 May 2013.
  54. “Cardinal Pell denies attempting to bribe alleged abuse victim and helping to move paedophile priest”, Tablet, 21 May 2015.
  55. “Mo. appeals court rules Catholic church not responsible for some abuse”, St. Louis Public Radio, 5 July 2011.
  56. “How the German Catholic Church Protected a Pedophile Priest”, Spiegel, 24 April 2009.
  57. Tom Heneghan, “John Paul backed praise for hiding abuse – cardinal”, Reuters, 18 April 2010.
  58. Cardinal Darío del Niño Jesús Castrillón Hoyos to Bishop Pierre Pican, 8 September 2001. Translation in “Darío Castrillón Hoyos”,
  59. John L Allen Jr, “Crisis hangs over pope in Malta like volcanic ash”, National Catholic Register, 17 April 2010.
  60. Tom Heneghan, “John Paul backed praise for hiding abuse – cardinal”, Reuters, 18 April 2010.
  61. Rod Dreher, “Cardinal: John Paul approved of cover-up”, Beliefnet, 18 April 2010.
  62. Ciaran Byrne, “Controversial cleric a ‘grade A1 idiot’, says colleague”, Irish Independent, 20 March 2010.
  63. “Catholic archbishop says kids are spontaneously gay”,, 8 May 2010.
  64. “Calls multiply for inquiry into handling of sex abuse”, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 August 2012.
  65. Laurie Goodstein, Nick Cumming-Brice and Jim Yardley,“ U.N. Panel Criticizes the Vatican Over Sexual Abuse”, New York Times, 5 February 2014.
  66. “Holy See’s Comments to Observations From UN Committee on Rights of the Child”, Zenit, 26 September 2014.


Pederast Marcel Maciel and His Partners in Crime

Pederast Marcel Maciel and His Partners in Crime

From the link:

It won’t be possible to save the Legion from its greatest Legionary,  pederast Marcel Maciel, a sex abuser for sixty years disguised as a priest. The networks of collusion that allowed this monster to hide his perversions  implicate former Pope John Paul II and the current Pope Benedict XVI.  The scandal has shaken Mexico and the wound in the Church  won’t easily heal over.

Jorge Alonso

The Mexican Marcial Maciel was born in the Michoacan town of Cotija, in 1920.  Twenty-one years later he founded the Legion of Christ.  Its members call themselves and are known as “Legionaries.”  Maciel’s theological and historical education was too meager to allow him to understand that Christ made disciples, while legions were an instrument of domination belonging to the Roman Empire.

Years of violations

Maciel was ordained a priest in 1944.  Two years later he traveled to Spain with a first group of young people.  In 1950 he set up a study center of the Legion in Rome and in 1959 a lay movement he called Regnum Christi.  During that time he published a document he called “The Psalter of my days,” which the Legionaries considered their spiritual guide.  It was actually brazen plagiary: 80% was a copy of a book by Spanish Catholic politician Luis Lucia, who died in Valencia in 1943.
By the late fifties Marciel was already subjected to a canonical process for accusations of pederasty.  Despite the evidence, the Roman Curia chose to take no action.  In 1965 Rome officially recognized the congregation of Legionaries.  Maciel had a knack for ingratiating himself with important people in the Vatican bureaucracy and the religious elites of the business classes in the countries to which his organization spread.  From the end of the seventies right up to the early nineties he was an active promoter of John Paul II’s trips to Mexico.
At the end of the nineties the Vatican received documentation on another suit against Maciel for pederasty, this time from several former Legionaries.  Ratzinger, who was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time, chose to shelve it so John Paul II wouldn’t have to quarrel with Maciel.  Not until 2006, once he was Pope Benedict XVI, did Ratzinger decide to punish the Legion’s founder, but tried to do it with a low profile.  He ordered Maciel to leave Rome, renounce all priestly public ministries and lead the life of a recluse.  In early 2008, Maciel died without ever facing justice for his serious crimes.

They protect, silence, transfer, scatter…

In 2006 Mexican academic Fernando González published Marcial Maciel. Los legionarios de Cristo: testimonios y documentos inéditos (The Legion of Christ: unpublished testaments and documents) (Tusquets, 2006), a meticulous investigation into the pederasty of the Legion’s founder and the network of accomplices to it both in that organization and the Catholic ecclesiastical elite.  Later, he gave another turn of the screw with revelations and analyses of these criminal practices in the book: La Iglesia del Silencio. De mártires y pederastas (The Church of Silence. Of martyrs and pederasts) (Tusquets, 2009).  In the second part of this book González offers new data and new sources about the sexual abuse of Pope John Paul II’s protégée.  Emphasizing how difficult it is to investigate the sexual activity of the clergy, he documents accusations that have been made all over the world in recent years by those who have suffered sexual abuse, silence and subterfuge from priests.
The most discordant aspect of these cases is that the abusers betray the trust placed in them and make defenseless victims out of those delivered into their care.  Those who have been raped become entrapped as partners in crime and the pederasts protect themselves from accusations by invoking a supposed “moral martyrdom”.  The author examines the Catholic Church’s diverse institutional strategies to deal with the perverted sexuality of these religious officials, protecting the institution over and above the human rights of those affected, revealing it as institutional behavior and structural hypocrisy.  They silence, control, relocate and scatter.  Trying to avoid scandal, they undermine the accusers and hearten the protected abuser into continuing his abuses in the many places to which they transfer him.

John Paul II: An institutional accomplice

González’s book details the case of Marcial Maciel, drug addict and pederast.  Every time he was accused, his organization and a variety of bishops rallied to his defense, alleging the Church was being attacked.  The organization Maciel set up was based on business logic with many links to powerful economic and religious interests.
The author examines how the victims, through shame and a feeling of guilt, usually keep quiet about the abuse.  In order to cover himself, Maciel invented a special vow that obliged members of his congregation to maintain silence on the subject of his perversions and dirty business, in which they would swear not to criticize their superior.  He was accountable to no one.  He lived a double life in an organization that shielded him.  The Legion became a cult to the personality of its founder.
In the first wave of accusations in the fifties, most of the accusers ended up lying before an incipient and soon aborted Vatican investigation.  The accusers were maligned and the abuser transformed into a martyr.  John Paul II was his institutional accomplice.  When Ratzinger was a cardinal, he too protected Maciel.  In 1998 he blocked the case and in 2001 modified the Canonical Code of Law to give Maciel a way out: the crime of absolving an accomplice would have a 10-year statute of limitations.  This gave the abuser an escape route and left the victims with no possibility of proving their accusations in court.  The book shows that Maciel went unpunished thanks to this collusion.

Faced with a landslide of evidence

González shows that when the mounting evidence of Maciel’s excesses and crimes could no longer be hidden, ecclesiastical logic dictated that the Legion’s founder be removed from the scene, thus saving the organization.  After Maciel’s death the Vatican preferred to condemn him publicly for having women and children without mentioning his pederast habits and his addiction to drugs.  Instead of recognizing its founder’s crimes and the complicity of many of the organization’s members, the Legionaries took refuge in a watered-down acknowledgment that Maciel was human and as such had “failings”.
González’s book shows that the group of accusers, who demanded justice for years, made thinkable what had hitherto remained in the realm of the improbable.  In spite of the religious authorities’ tendency to neutralize protest, the accusations began to find their own way.  It was proved that relations existed between money, power and sex in the religious world.  The network of complicity woven by the Catholic hierarchy was also revealed.  It became clear that John Paul II protected the pederast Maciel in both practical and moral terms.  Negotiations between Vatican authorities and the Legion’s leaders got them to accept that Maciel had fathered children, but both in Rome and in the congregation of Legionaries, highly stultified arguments were advanced to try and save the figure of Maciel, rhetorically asking how a pederast, if that’s what he really was, could possibly have managed to set up such an important educational enterprise, as if being a pederast prevented one from being a good businessman…
The far-reaching network of complicity woven by Maciel was weakened in the end by a landslide of evidence.  Accusations by former Legionaries brought down the vow of silence, the wall raised by the founder, his congregation and the Catholic hierarchy.  But one question remains to be answered: how could Maciel have seduced so many?  Fernando González admits there is still much to investigate, but there’s no doubt that an institutional wound has been opened in the Catholic Church that won’t heal.

Sex and money went hand in hand

The Legion numbers 125 religious houses, 900 priests, 3,000 seminarians, 70,000 lay volunteers, 150 schools and 9 universities in 22 countries. In Rome it had one of the main pontifical universities.  Its assets are estimated to be worth 20.5 billion Euros.
Among the Legionaries there’s a “charisma” of pretence, lies and pederasty bequeathed by the founder that isn’t dispelled just by taking his portraits off the walls.  González provides important information on a network of pederasts in one of the Legion’s schools, showing how durable inter-generational chains are being forged.
The author emphasizes that Maciel conducted his racket with savoir faire and his disciples have gambled on not being discovered.  González points to a crucial vein: that of money.  The organization’s current authorities say they don’t know how their founder managed the money for his double life, but they want us to accept that they, of course, do it honestly.  If a truly serious ecclesiastical investigation were opened into the Legionaries, it would have to analyze the provenance and use of the organization’s money.
The second part of González’s book has three annexes.  The first shows how Maciel’s supposed pardon of his critics was very limited and how he used a great deal of money to sue his accusers, some of whom were obliged to reach a “deal” for lack of economic resources.
The second annex talks about secrets that explain Maciel’s pederast behavior, given that he himself was abused as a child by the muleteers with whom he traveled.  His father thought that going on journeys with muleteers would help make him a man.
In the third annex one finds the reflections of a former legionary about a charge he brought before the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith based on an accusation against Maciel by a group of ex-legionaries.  There it is proved that the Holy See acted discretionally in favor of the accused.  According to testimonies from the forties, fifties and sixties, Maciel was repeatedly guilty of  the crime of absolving an accomplice; thus the canonical modification introduced by Ratzinger avoided due process.  As well as protecting the criminal, the victims’ rights were infringed.

Who was Maciel really?

At the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009 the Vatican changed tack on Maciel’s case.  The Vatican secretary visited Mexico in December 2008 and in February 2009 went to Madrid where one of Maciel’s daughters lived.  On March 10, 2009, the Vatican ordered an apostolic visit to the Legionaries.  In May the names of inspectors responsible for investigating the Legion were announced.
While the Vatican commission was examining the Legionaries, the international press published a heap of revelations about the Maciel case.  It documented his drug addiction, and accusations were leaked that he’d had contacts with drug traffickers.  Traces of his fat bank accounts in different parts of the world were presented.  Several false identities he used officially were detected.  Versions of the period before his death were divulged: his resistance to going to Mass after receiving a life of prayer as his penance, and his rage against the religion he professed because Rome had expelled him.  It was also learned that one of his concubines and a daughter of his had arrived to attend to him on his death bed, a situation known by the Legion’s authorities, one of whom threatened to reveal to the media who Maciel really was.
The appearance on Carmen Aristegui’s radio show of two young men who said they were Maciel’s sons and had been sexually abused by him was widely disseminated after the story was confirmed publicly by their mother, another of his concubines.  It also came out that the Legion’s leaders had known about their founder’s licentious life for some time.  They seemed to have less resistance to admitting Maciel’s heterosexual activities than to accepting publicly the overwhelming proof of his homosexual pederasty.

A monster sheltered by Pope John Paul II

Given this avalanche of proof, the names used in the media to refer to Maciel became increasingly harsh: faker, fraudster, impostor, hypocrite, vice-ridden, drug addict, con artist, libertine, sexual obsessive, compulsive pederast, child sex abuser, delinquent, pervert, criminal, devil in priest’s clothing… Many wrote about his long and prolific history of pederasty, drug addiction, polygamy, deceit, illicit wealth, religious and political influence trafficking, false identities and mythomania.  It became increasingly obvious that the monster Maciel had flourished in the shade of his defenders.
Maciel’s main protector was John Paul II, whose collusion was complete.  In 1991 the Pope designated Maciel a member of the Ordinary Assembly Bishops’ Synod for priests’ education; in 1992 a member of the IV General Conference of the Latin American Bishopric; in 1993 a member of the Bishops’ Synod on the Consecrated Life and its Mission in the Church and the World; in 1994 a permanent consultant for the Congregation for the Clergy; in 1997 a member of the Special Assembly for America of the Bishops’ Synod.  And after he was already aware of the accusations against Maciel, he publicly praised him as a promoter of pastoral work and commended him as an example to youth.

Many Mexican bishops and heads of big business

Various analysts have wondered why this happened and have had to agree that the basic reason is rooted in the money Maciel gave to the Vatican.  Writer Rubén Aguilar indicated in the magazine Milenio that the investigation into pederasty didn’t prosper due to the close relationship between Maciel and Pope John Paul II based on money Maciel obtained for the pope to finance his war on communism.  A network of bishops, with whom Maciel had contact thanks to the positions John Paul II gave him, were also accessories and accomplices.  When at the end of the 20th century the accusations of pederasty were made public, several bishops vigorously defended Maciel and harshly denigrated his accusers.
Mexican big business has also been an accomplice.  They proudly presumed that Maciel would hold Mass at their anniversary celebrations and would marry and baptize family members.  Thanks to this proximity they didn’t hesitate to use their economic power to protect Maciel and attack those who called for justice for atrocities he committed.  Most of the families belonging to the Mexican high bourgeoisie had some relative connected with Maciel’s Legion.  For them, defending Maciel and the Legion became a family mission, a role not far removed from mafioso codes.

Ratzinger the surgeon

The Vatican’s inspectors finished their work in mid-March of this year, but there are no great expectations of what might come out of this examination.  It’s feared that everything has already been cooked up and there’ll be a lot of pretence to make it look like the Catholic hierarchy is responding to the crisis.  Rome has made clear that it will take some time to release the results of the Vatican inspection.  There is no reason to expect transparency, since the hierarchy isn’t used to being accountable to either its faithful or society.
As there’s no way to defend Maciel, the most probable outcome is that his memory will be condemned and some changes will be made in the Legion’s leadership so that the ‘reestablished’ organization can carry on, with some cosmetic adjustments.  There are many networks of money and power and many accomplices in the ecclesiastical and business structure with interests in the Legion’s continuation.  One factor that could carry a lot of weight in the Vatican’s decision is the amount of resources the Roman See continues to receive from this institution.
Fernando González, accustomed to doing penetrating analyses, has underscored the Vatican’s perversity in sending a commission of investigators to examine the Legionaries as if this commission were only a judge and not a link in the chain of collusion between three Vatican authorities that have intervened in the Maciel affair: the Secretary of State, the Sacred Congregation of the Religious and the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  González refers to the current pope as “surgeon” Ratzinger who invented the figure of the “solipsistic pederast,” a sort of oxymoron or reconciler of opposites.  It will fall to this surgeon to decide just how far to cut the Legion’s body without touching the complicit Vatican authorities, which would inevitably lead to himself and John Paul II.

Vatican clues

The Vatican’s behavior in other recent pederasty cases gives some clues as to how it might proceed in this one.  In late March of this year it was revealed that the Vatican hadn’t punished a US priest accused of having abused 200 deaf children, arguing he was sick and old.  Faced with the scandal of scores of pederasty cases among the Irish clergy and emphasizing that the Roman declaratory was not limited to that country alone, the Vatican asked the victims of pederasty for forgiveness and admitted that inappropriate procedures had been used.  It also asked for an investigation, but announced no punishment for the child raping priests.
González has pointed out that Benedict XVI addressed the Irish bishops as if he hadn’t headed the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for over 20 years, as if he had been above and beyond  the whole conflict.

The clamor of the survivors

There have been demonstrations by sexual abuse victims both in St. Peter’s Square and in front of the Vatican Embassy in Washington, demanding that the files of pedophile clergy be opened and that they be defrocked.  The Vatican replied to this demand and to an editorial in The New York Times, regretting what it called an attempt to attack the Pope and his close advisers.  The paper responded with the information that when Ratzinger was bishop of Munich he had authorized therapy for a pedophile priest and approved his transfer to another parish.
Victims’ associations went public with their disappointment at the papal role in the Irish cases.  They were hoping for more forceful signs and gestures, not just in Ireland but in other countries affected by this serious crime.  Rome was saving the top-ranking hierarchy, complicit in such an abominable practice, from the courts.  The general demand is for those who have victimized innocent children and those who have been their accomplices to appear before both ecclesiastical courts and civil ones, particularly the latter.  The victims must also be compensated.  Many of them not only suffered sexual abuse but also persecution, denigration and slander at the hands of the religious hierarchy and their unconditional allies in the world of money.  Victims of pederasty have proved they suffer extremely serious and long-lasting psychological damage.

The Legionaries speak

Trying to save their necks after the apostolic visit, the Legion’s director general, vicar general, four general counselors and ten territorial directors of different world regions issued a press release on March 25, in which they followed the Vatican script: cut the tie with Maciel.  They admitted Maciel had fathered a daughter in the context of a long and stable relationship with a woman and that two men had also appeared claiming they were his sons, the fruit of a relationship with another woman.  They asked forgiveness of people who had accused Maciel in the past to whom they had given no credit and offered them spiritual and pastoral help.  They said that if there had been any guilty collaboration they would act in accordance with the principles of justice and Christian charity.  They offered to tell the truth about their history, provide security to minors in their institutions and seek reconciliation and a coming together with those who had suffered.
The document also refers to “other serious behavior” of its founder but doesn’t specify what this is.  It says the Legionaries could no longer regard Maciel as a model of Christian and priestly life.  They make out to be stunned by Maciel’s abominable behavior and stress they previously believed the accusations to be false, despite the information that the leaders were fully aware of many of Maciel’s crimes and covered up for him.
They continue to call Maciel their founder and thank God for the good he did.  They also express their gratitude to the pope for having offered an apostolic visit, thank the five inspectors for their fatherly concern and call on the Legion and its followers to intensify their prayers.
This document offers an excellent exercise for those dedicated to analyzing discourse.  By alluding, it eludes.  It never explicitly mentions Maciel’s pederasty, everything remains between the lines.  They ask for forgiveness and say they are convinced of the meaning and beauty of forgiveness, but appear to be referring to the forgiveness they bestow on their founder.  They offer no concrete acts to repair the damage but rather pastoral attention and prayers.  But neither they nor the Church will resolve the serious problem of pederasty with prayers.  Subsequently, the Legion’s director general wanted to exonerate his organization’s existence, assuring that God knew how to write straight (them) on twisted lines (Maciel).  He announced that his organization would begin anew.

A tainted congregation

Maciel’s victims replied that the Legion’s document of forgiveness was insufficient and superficial.  They pointed out that it made no reference to compensation for damages.  Roberto Blancarte, a specialist in religions, agreed that the press statement, which was intended to preempt whatever conclusion the Vatican might reach, was insufficient.  José Barba, one of Maciel’s main accusers, considered the apology of the Legion’s management reflected its usual rhetoric and lacked repentance and justice.  He insisted that the Legion didn’t truly take the victims into account and didn’t even call them by their names.  He argued that the Vatican’s apostolic inspection wasn’t enough and that a high-level international group was needed to conduct a parallel investigation in order to be accountable to society later on.
He asserted that the Legion couldn’t disassociate itself from the actions of its founder and begin a new era without that model, and that the Legion resolved the affair facilely by saying Maciel was the tainted one and the rest of the congregation had nothing to do with it.   Barba insisted that the entire organization needed to be scrutinized in depth, as opposed to the hasty way the Legionaries were attempting to ignore their founder’s influence.  In response to the Legion director general’s remark that the Legionaries were “orphans,” Barba agreed that they were indeed, but were spiritually orphaned.

Accomplices and accessories to crime

Journalist Carlos Puig referred to León Krauze’s analysis, which demonstrated that it’s impossible to understand the Legion or its Regnum Christi work without Maciel.  Puig argues that one must distinguish three important aspects: Maciel’s atrocities, the cover-up operation on which the Legion and the Catholic hierarchy embarked years ago and the machinations of the Mexican elite to crush both the victims who denounced Maciel’s abuse and the reporters who revealed the monster he was.
The Legion couldn’t salvage its greatest legionary.  The words they used in their press statement, attempting to disassociate themselves from Maciel, only sounded pathetic when they asserted that what their founder and moral guide had done was reprehensible.  Sexual abuse, lies and cover-ups are rather more than reprehensible; they are criminal.  In its statement the Legion made no reference to the civil laws under which their founder deserved incarceration.  The Legion’s management acknowledged Maciel hadn’t been a good Christian, but didn’t admit he was a sexual criminal and a pederast.  To top it all off, they asked that their founder be forgiven and offered the victims nothing more than to carry on praying for them.
Just like Maciel had done, the Legion’s leaders used faith as a weapon to justify criminal actions.  Puig emphasized that the Legion’s statement left out anything to do with the long-standing operation of those close to the founder to protect and cover up for him.  It was crucial to ask how many of those who signed the statement had kept quiet for years, how many helped hide their founder’s crimes, how many worked together in silencing his victims.  Puig questioned them: when would the Legion start to denounce Maciel’s accomplices, because what they had done was cover up not a “sin” but a crime.

Dehumanized automatons

The Legion’s leaders, Fernando González warns us, issued their plea for forgiveness early, a mechanism that generally serves to leapfrog justice and avoid deeper probing into the facts.  One can call this “the forgiveness short circuit.”
González stresses that the protection and complicity that allowed Maciel to continue his criminal career for more than 50 years included not only the Legion’s elite but also middle-ranking and even minor congregational authorities that have been his partners in crime right up to the present day.  Maciel injected the establishment he founded with his own institutional code.  Not everything has come to light; an exhaustive investigation is needed into funds and their misuse.
Another element noted by analyst León Krauze is related to Maciel’s other victims.  From information gained from a family dedicated to the Legion, Krauze relates how this family’s sons were raised on Maciel’s teachings and bears witness to the terrifying transformation suffered by those who dedicate themselves to the Legion’s position.  A sort of brainwashing and dehumanization goes on that changes them into automatons.  To them, Maciel is not only the founder but the very dogma.  The Legion owes a debt not only to the victims of Maciel’s sexual abuse, but also to the thousands who participated in a movement created, guided and inspired by a “cruel and hypocritical monster.”

Is it enough just to reestablish the Legion?

Vaticanologists and specialists in the study of religions have hazarded a guess that, given the deluge that has battered the Legion, this congregation is facing the Vatican’s choice between abolishing it, which is unlikely, or look for a way out that will permit it to continue functioning by means of “reestablishing” itself.  The latter appears to be what it will go for, cutting out the tumor represented by Maciel from the congregation he founded.  Nevertheless, no few analysts consider this solution unviable, arguing that it’s impossible just to turn the page because Maciel represents the entire book for the Legionaries.  The cancer in the Legion has metastasized.  Maciel isn’t an expendable part of this institution but rather its backbone and marrow, the origin of an entire way of being and doing.
One can’t forget the deeply rooted and boundless cult to Maciel instilled in the Legionaries and its followers over many years.  Many still have little household altars to Maciel and close their eyes to the plethora of evidence.  Another scandalous issue that can’t be avoided is the existence of pederast networks among the Legionaries and their followers who, aware of the double, triple and even quadruple lives Maciel led, promoted his canonization by the Vatican, even while he was still alive.  Writer Sanjuana Martínez recalled that Mexico’s archbishop had declared that Maciel would always be the Legionaries’ founder, despite the punishment handed down to him by Rome.
The Legion’s response to the crisis and its actions when faced with the examination to which it was subjected suggests that Maciel left behind a habitus they are unable to forsake.  Thus, far from feeling real remorse when confronted with the accusation by Maciel’s sons that he had abused them sexually, they tried to make themselves look like the offended party of an extortion threat rather than accepting that the victims were only asking for economic compensation for the serious damage suffered.  Another indication that they had learned to imitate Maciel well came in the context of the Vatican’s punishment of their founder.  At the time, they denied it was a punishment, referring to it just as a “spiritual retreat.”  Subsequently, faced with the announcement that the Vatican would subject them to an examination, they wanted to present it as assistance given them by Rome.

The perverse Legionary psycho-pathology

One former legionary and Maciel victim has pointed out that legionary psychology—one would have to say psycho-pathology—isn’t going to change given that these people have spent six decades working with Maciel’s convictions and learning his way of doing things: his skillful use of deceit.  The Legion’s leaders prepared for the questioning by Vatican inspectors by sending the members possible questions they might be asked so they would know what replies to give.  The investigators were thus met with learned answers, while the Legion’s management announced that everyone had answered “freely.”
Sheldon S. Wolin, an experienced specialist in democracy, has demonstrated that liars want the untruth to be accepted as reality and that lying is an expression of power’s resolve.

Reactions of Mexico’s civil authorities

Writer Roberta Garza states that the Church has always known how to convert its crimes into sins so as to expiate them in obscurity.  She thus called for an analysis of how pederasty, cover-ups and money laundering had become the Legion’s real “charisma,” and stuck her neck out by saying that the Church would not see real justice done.  Another Mexican columnist wrote that the overdue apologies weren’t enough, damage had been done and the moral authority of the Catholic priesthood was being severely questioned.  Various Mexican analysts expressed astonishment that such a sustained and wide-reaching violation of human rights hadn’t been subjected to an investigation by the Mexican civil authorities.  Maciel had died, but his organization continued to enjoy enormous power and complete impunity.  The current demand is for the Mexican civil authorities to ensure that justice is done rather than collude.
In Mexico all three major parliamentary benches in the House of Representatives asked the Church hierarchy to compensate the people damaged by the criminal activity of the Legion’s founder.  Juventino Castro, a former Supreme Court justice, thinks the Legion should assume responsibility for its founder’s excesses and believes there are enough contributing factors to abolish the organization.  Legislator Leticia Quezada demanded that Mexico’s attorney general investigate the Legion given the probability that it sheltered a network of pederasts.  Nevertheless some senators refused to comment on the case with the argument that their children studied in the Legion’s schools.

Jail for the accomplices

The Catholic hierarchy’s attempt to shield itself by alleging that no more pederasts can be found in the ranks of the clergy than in other professions is extremely clumsy.  A pederast is highly condemnable wherever he appears and if it is in the Church, the assumed bearer of a saintly mission, he’s even more abominable.  It is a major miscalculation for the hierarchy to respond to pederasty cases with comparisons that come nowhere near the root of the problem.  If it offers highly unconvincing solutions to get out of its fix, it will only dig itself deeper into a crisis of enormous proportions.
Esteban Garaiz, who has shown himself to be a responsible and trustworthy public figure in Mexico, has reasoned in one of his articles that pederasty is a social evil and not just a sin based on firsthand testimonies of Maciel’s pederasty and direct proof of the Legion’s complicity.  And being a crime, he argues, the criminals should be subjected to civil law and punished in accordance with the serious damage inflicted.  Furthermore, the Catholic hierarchy has the moral and civic obligation to ask for forgiveness and rehabilitate and compensate the victims, identifying them and acknowledging that they weren’t liars but brave men who have been demanding their rights.  He further emphasized that Mexican business leaders who gave their unconditional support to a social criminal such as Maciel are obliged publicly and in writing to ask forgiveness of the pederasty victims they slandered and harassed.  Finally he makes it clear that Maciel’s accomplices should go to prison too.

Maciel’s sons were also his victims

González looks in depth at the dramatic case of Maciel’s two sons who ended up admitting they had demanded $26 million in compensation and accepting they had effectively offered their silence for money.  Their tragedy is that they ended up with nothing and on the same level as their father for having even suggested the exchange, when the crucial element was their story of the lie they lived and the abuse to which Maciel subjected them.  One major difference should be pointed out, however: at least they admitted what they had done, while their father never acknowledged his true personality, the one the whole world now knows.
In their souls and their bodies they both distill the two most significant aspects of Maciel’s sexuality.  It was pitiful how the institutional network, with its sustained silences, ended up provoking the media testimony in which Maciel’s sons were compelled to malign their own father in public.  Speaking up is in itself very difficult for any survivor of sexual abuse; now the coercion to continue talking will become a new source of shame for them if they don’t do it.

The moment of truth

Fernando González reflects that, unlike other similar cases, the longevity of the case of Maciel and his Legion has allowed it to pass from the improbability to which it was long consigned by the Vatican, Episcopal bodies, the Legion, their related elites and the parents of families at their schools.  It therefore turned into probability and now into acceptance of the evidence.  The first Vatican version and that of the entire Legion has fallen to pieces before the eyes of a large part of Mexican society.  Whatever the Vatican leaves of the Legion will remain a closed, authoritarian institution, now without Maciel’s public figure, but with his seal and fundamental nature forever.
The Maciel affair has become a crucial element with which to analyze the organization that gave rise to it.  It has involved the exposure of a hubris that has unleashed a tragedy in the Catholic hierarchy.  Independent of any decision the Vatican might take regarding the Legion, neither the Catholic elites nor the Legion itself will be spared history’s condemnation.   If there are really Legionaries who don’t want collusion on their conscience, they will have to push for its dissolution, since the case isn’t about one of its members but the founder himself.  Finally, this serious crisis is about those at the top and very clearly brings to light their corruption, hypocrisy and double standards.
Jorge Alonso is a researcher for CIESAS West and the envío correspondent in Mexico.

Catholic church weighs up response to criticism from Ireland

from the link:

Catholic church weighs up response to criticism from Ireland

Vatican officials claim Enda Kenny may be using report into sexual abuse by priests to divert attention from euro crisis

in Rome, Friday 29 July 2011 12.41 EDT

Pope Benedict XVI fears further fracturing of the Catholic church in Europe. Photograph: Riccardo De Luca/AP


Next month, as every year since he was chosen to lead the world’s Roman Catholics, the scholarly Pope Benedict XVI will preside at a meeting of his Schülerkreis — a group of his former doctoral students.

This year, the issue for debate in the pontifical summer palace, overlooking a volcanic lake near Rome, is the one he was elected to tackle: how to reverse the galloping secularisation of Catholicism‘s European homeland.

The discussion could scarcely be more timely, coming in the midst of a crisis in relations between the Holy See and Ireland, a country where, until a few years ago, official defiance of Rome was unthinkable.

The reaction in the Vatican to Enda Kenny’s impassioned denunciation on 20 July has been one of astonishment. But, as the Holy See’s temporary recall of its ambassador, or nuncio, five days later showed, it is also laced with indignation.

The pope’s deputy spokesman, Father Ciro Benedettini, gave the move a positive gloss, saying the Holy See needed the nuncio back in Rome so it could frame its reply to the Cloyne report “with objectivity and determination”. But his temporary withdrawal also reflected what Benedettini tactfully called “surprise and disappointment over some excessive reactions”.

In diplomacy, the recall of an envoy for consultations is a clear signal of disapproval and L’Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, was unable to find a precedent for it in the vast annals of Vatican diplomacy.

The pope’s aides feel they have been unfairly attacked, and some suspect a political motive. One high-ranking cleric who spoke on condition of anonymity noted Ireland was caught up in the euro crisis and speculated that Kenny might have been seeking to distract public opinion.

Others stressed the Vatican response, promised by the end of August, would seek to heal the breach. But the signs this week were that it would also include a vigorous defence of the Vatican’s position.

No one in Rome disputes that allegations of the sexual abuse of minors in the Cloyne diocese were grossly mishandled by the bishop, John Magee. But Vatican officials argue they are being pilloried for the actions of a pastor who disregarded their instructions.

Ireland’s prime minister claimed that judge Yvonne Murphy’s report contained evidence of an “attempt by the Holy See to block an enquiry … less than three years ago”.

Vatican officials say they can find no such evidence. What the report does contain, they say, is criticism of the papal bureaucracy’s actions 14 years ago. In 1997, the Congregation for the Clergy, the department responsible for the priesthood, sent a message to the Irish bishops criticising their attempts to create a framework for dealing with sex abuse cases.

In particular, it objected to a clause that went beyond the requirements of Irish law at the time and proposed that: “In all instances where it is known or suspected that a priest … has sexually abused a child, the matter should be reported to the civil authorities.” The Vatican said that could be at odds with the church’s own laws.

Murphy’s commission concluded that Rome’s objections gave individual bishops – including Magee – freedom to ignore the bishops’ guidelines. But speaking on Vatican Radio on 19 July, the pope’s spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, argued there was “no reason to interpret the letter as aimed at hiding cases of abuse. In fact, it was warning of the risk of taking measures that could then turn out to be challengeable or invalid from a canonical point of view”.

In any case, say other Vatican officials, even if the Congregation’s response was misguided, it was made before 2001. That is when, in their view, there was a sea change.

Pope John Paul II ordered all cases of alleged sex abuse to be dealt with in Rome by the department then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as he was known then. As he read the paperwork, the future pope became increasingly appalled by what he saw, and put in place an altogether more effective policy. “Not to recognise that there has been a learning curve and that things have changed is stupid”, said a senior Vatican official.

That may not be the whole story, however. In an interview with the website Vatican Insider, the archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said he believed Kenny was not only referring to the 1997 exchange, but also “to interactions – which I was unaware of – which took place with the Vatican while the Cloyne report was being prepared”. He did not elaborate.

• This article was amended on 2 August 2011. In the original Diarmuid Martin was described as also having the status of cardinal. This has been corrected.