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U.N. Panel Criticizes the Vatican Over Sexual Abuse


U.N. Panel Criticizes the Vatican Over Sexual Abuse

OPINION: Pontifical secret allows abuse to go unpunished


OPINION: Pontifical secret allows abuse to go unpunished


June 9, 2014, 10 p.m

From the Link: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/2340393/opinion-pontifical-secret-allows-abuse-to-go-unpunished/

"Saint" Peter Damian's admonishing against priest pedophiles and those who cover up for them in 1049.

“Saint” Peter Damian’s admonishing against priest pedophiles and those who cover up for them in 1049.

THE Catholic Church for some 1500 years recognised that simply stripping a priest of his status as a priest was not a sufficient punishment for the sexual abuse of children.

Canon law from the 12th century decreed that he should be dismissed from the priesthood and handed over to the civil authority for punishment in accordance with the civil law.

A commission set up by Pope Pius X in 1904 drafted a uniform code of canon law by discarding papal and council decrees that were no longer relevant, modifying others and creating new ones.

The 1917 Code of Canon Law discarded the decrees requiring priests who sexually assaulted children to be handed over to the civil authorities.

Five years later, Pope Pius XI issued his 1922 decree, Crimen Sollicitationis, imposing the “secret of the Holy Office”, a “permanent silence” on all information the Church obtained through its canonical investigations of clergy sex abuse of children. There were no exceptions allowing the reporting of these crimes to the civil authorities.

In 1962, Pope St. John XXIII reissued Crimen Sollicitationis. In 1974, Pope Paul VI, by his decree, Secreta Continere renamed ‘‘the secret of the Holy Office’’ ‘‘the pontifical secret’’, and it continued to apply to the sexual abuse of children under the new 1983 Code of Canon Law.

In 2001, Pope St. John Paul II confirmed the pontifical secret under some new procedures, and in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI expanded its reach by applying it to allegations of priests having sex with intellectually disabled people. In 2010, the Holy See allowed a restricted form of reporting to the civil authorities but only where the civil law required it.

In most parts of the world, and in every state of Australia, apart from NSW, there is no such requirement to report in the vast majority of cases. The pontifical secret still applies where there are no such reporting laws.

The policy of secrecy may not have been so disastrous for children had canon law’s internal disciplinary procedures been adequate to dismiss such priests. But they were not.

Canon law required bishops to try and reform such priests before dismissing them. In his 1983 Code of Canon Law, Pope John Paul II imposed a five-year limitation period that effectively meant there would be no canonical trials of sex-abusing priests.

It also gave such priests a Catch-22 defence: a priest cannot be dismissed for paedophilia because he is a paedophile.

The more children a priest abused, the less likely it was could he be dismissed.

In November 2009, the Murphy Commission in Ireland examined all the above matters, and found that ‘‘the structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated’’ the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin, and severely criticised the secrecy imposed by canon law and its capacity to discipline priests.

In March 2010, Pope Benedict wrote a Pastoral Letter to the people of Ireland, and ignored the Commission’s criticisms of canon law. Instead he blamed the bishops for the cover-up, and for not applying ‘‘the long-established norms of canon law’’.

The submissions made by the Victorian Church to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry and by the Australian Church to the current Royal Commission follow the same script: there is no mention of the pontifical secret or the inadequacies of the canon law to dismiss these priests.

There are theological reasons behind this reluctance to face the unpalatable truth. Martin Luther claimed that the only source of divine inspiration was the Bible, a view influenced by the corruption of the Renaissance Popes.

The Catholic Church could explain the “bad popes” under the bad apples in the barrel theory: the Holy Spirit does inspire the Church to lead the world to salvation even through sinful popes like Alexander VI with his string of mistresses and eight children.

But now there is hard evidence that six popes since 1922, two of them now saints, maintained and expanded a system of cover-up of child sexual abuse by clergy through canon law, in order to save the Church’s reputation.

These were not “bad popes” of the Renaissance kind.

An unintended consequence of this policy was an increase in damage done to children, a crime that the Church’s founder thought was so bad that those responsible should be thrown in the sea with millstones around their necks.

 Kieran Tapsell is a retired Sydney lawyer with degrees in theology and law. He is the author of  Potiphar’s Wife: The Secret of the Holy Office and Child Sexual Abuse 

Catholic Church ‘systematically’ protected abusive priests, U.N. says


Catholic Church ‘systematically’ protected abusive priests, U.N. says

February 05, 2014|By Tom Kington

The Roman Catholic Church has “systematically” protected predator priests, allowing “tens of thousands” of children to be abused, a United Nations committee said Wednesday in a scathing report that cast the first shadow over Pope Francis’ honeymoon period as pontiff.

The panel called on the Vatican to remove all suspects from their posts immediately and to open up its confidential archives in order “to hold abusers accountable.”

“The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators,” the report said.

The Vatican, which signed the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, has “consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the Church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests,” said the report, accusing the Vatican of transferring abusive priests to new parishes where many have continued to abuse children, and of “humiliating” the families of victims into silence.

In a sharply worded response, the Holy See’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, attacked the report, calling it “surprising” and full of “incorrect” statements, and alleging that the U.N. had ignored steps taken by the Vatican in recent years to root out abuse.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Tomasi also suggested that nongovernmental organizations that oppose the Vatican’s positions on homosexuality and gay marriage had influenced the U.N. report, giving it an “ideological” slant.

Addressing the U.N. committee last month, Tomasi said the Vatican had no responsibility for abusers because “priests are citizens of their own states, and they fall under the jurisdiction of their own country.”

But the report disagreed, telling the Vatican that because priests are “bound by obedience to the pope” in canon law, the Vatican is accountable for their conduct.

The report, released by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva, strongly urged the Vatican to oblige its priests and bishops to take all reports about abuse to the police and end what it termed a “code of silence” under which whistle-blowers were “ostracized, demoted and fired.”

As a first step, the report urged the Vatican to appoint representatives of victims groups to the commission created by Francis in December to investigate abuse, and asked the Vatican to report back on progress made by 2017.

Although the committee’s recommendations are nonbinding, they are a challenge to the pope, whose popularity has soared since he was elected in March, in part with the assumption that he would reform the Vatican.

“Pope Francis has already missed opportunities to assert his authority to reverse the Church’s damaging policies over clerical abuse and unless he responds positively and quickly to the demands of the committee, he risks history judging his whole papacy a failure,” said Keith Porteous Wood, the executive director of Britain’s National Secular Society, which gave evidence to the committee.

Whisked Away by the Vatican


Whisked Away by the Vatican

Top Vatican figure in row over child abuse comments


Top Vatican figure in row over child abuse comments

By AFP

From the link: http://news.msn.com/world/top-vatican-figure-in-row-over-child-abuse-comments

Pedophile Pimp, Cardinal George Pell

Pedophile Pimp, Cardinal George Pell

 

Australia’s leading Catholic cleric George Pell, a top Vatican official, came under fire Friday after drawing an analogy between the church’s response to child abuse and a trucking company.

Cardinal Pell, a former archbishop of both Melbourne and Sydney before taking up a high-powered job this year as head of a new Vatican finance ministry after being handpicked by Pope Francis, made the comments Thursday.

He acknowledged to a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Melbourne that the church had a moral obligation to the victims of paedophile priests.

But he suggested that when it came to its legal responsibility, the actions of its priests were not necessarily the fault of the church, citing the hypothetical example of a woman being molested by a truck driver.

“If the truck driver picks up some lady and then molests her, I don’t think it’s appropriate, because it is contrary to the policy, for the ownership, the leadership of that company to be held responsible,” he said via video link from Rome.

“Similarly with the church and the head of any other organisation.

“If every precaution has been taken, no warning has been given, it is, I think, not appropriate for legal culpability to be foisted on the authority figure.”

The comments outraged support groups, who said Pell was displaying a lack of compassion for victims of abuse.

“His comments were outrageous,” Adults Surviving Child Abuse president Cathy Kezelman said, adding that he “continues to duck and weave” in trying to deny liability.

“To have their (victims’) experiences denied yet again drives a knife into the wound and twists it,” she said.

Nicky Davis, from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, told ABC radio it showed Pell was out of touch.

“He shows that he really has absolutely no conception of what is appropriate or inappropriate behaviour and what are appropriate or inappropriate things to say to survivors,” she said.

“It was a highly offensive comparison and showed that, at the end of the day, all he was concerned with was protecting himself and making excuses for behaviour that is inexcusable.”

Earlier this year, in his last sermon before leaving Australia for the Holy See, Pell acknowledged priests, religious leaders and others linked to the church had abused those they were supposed to protect, and he apologised.

The Royal Commission is under way in Australia after a decade of growing pressure to investigate widespread allegations of paedophilia.

Its hearings have covered thousands of harrowing allegations of child abuse involving places of worship, orphanages, community groups and schools.

Pell is now one of the most important figures in the Catholic Church, charged with helping overhaul the Vatican’s much-criticised central administration following a wave of scandals.

© 2014 AFP

Cardinal Roger Mahony defends legacy on church abuse in blog


Cardinal Roger Mahony defends legacy on church abuse in blog

2/2/13 By Gillian Flaccus

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

Cardinal Roger Mahony

Cardinal Roger Mahony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was unclear whether the proposed agreement was enacted.

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

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

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

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

Associated Press writer Shaya Tayefe Mohajer contributed to this report.

UN tells Vatican to hand over details of child sex abuse cases


UN tells Vatican to hand over details of child sex abuse cases

A United Nations committee has demanded that the Vatican reveal potentially explosive details about the systematic cover-up of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy.

From the link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/vaticancityandholysee/10170080/UN-tells-Vatican-to-hand-over-details-of-child-sex-abuse-cases.html

 

Campaigners have called on Pope Francis, who was elected in March, to make tackling the issue of sexually abusive priests an urgent priority of his papacy.

The UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child released its demands for information from the Holy See on Tuesday.

The committee said that “in the light of the recognition by the Holy See of sexual violence against children committed by members of the clergy, brothers and nuns in numerous countries around the world, and given the scale of the abuses”, the Vatican should provide detailed information on all cases of child sexual abuse committed by clergy.

The Vatican was told to show whether it had implemented measures “to ensure that no member of the clergy currently accused of sexual abuse be allowed to remain in contact with children,” amid claims from around the world that bishops often moved abusive priests from one parish to another.

The UN committee demanded to know about specific cases in which bishops or other Catholic leaders had failed to report suspected abuse to the police.

The Vatican was also urged to divulge details of its investigation of alleged sexual abuse and the outcome of those investigations, including any financial compensation or psychological counselling for victims.

The committee wants to know what measures the Holy See has taken “to prevent further sexual violence from taking place in institutions run by the Catholic Church.” The Vatican has until January to compile all the information, in time for an open meeting of the UN committee in Geneva at which Vatican officials will be questioned.

Despite being a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Holy See had largely ignored requests for information, said Keith Porteous Wood, the executive director of the National Secular Society, who gave evidence to the committee last month.

“One of the requirements of a signatory is to compile a five yearly report on compliance – or in the Vatican’s case non-compliance – with the convention. The Holy See has grossly failed to do this for something like 12 years,” he told The Daily Telegraph.”They allowed sexual abuse on an unbelievable scale and it hasn’t all come out yet – we expect many, many more cases to emerge in the developing world.”

Pope Francis’s apparent determination to crack down on allegations of corruption and money-laundering within the Vatican bank gave hope that he might take a tough line on sexually abusive clergy, Mr Porteous Wood said.

“I think it’s a good sign,” he said. “Child abuse is a major issue, along with corruption, that he needs to sort out. His legacy will be judged, I think, on his ability to deal with these immensely difficult problems.”

Geoffrey Robertson QC, the human rights lawyer, who has strongly criticised the Catholic Church’s cover-up of sex abuse scandals around the world, said: “The committee’s enquiries will inevitably lead it to conclude that the Vatican has broken multiple articles of the convention on a huge scale in many countries. The result in human suffering is incalculable.

“Francis’s papacy could well be defined by the world’s verdict on his response – more handwringing apologies or calls for a line to be drawn under the past will no longer wash.

“He will fail unless he initiates bold tangible actions, for example lifting the veil of secrecy that has protected so many clerical rapists, engaging secular authorities and offering rather than resisting appropriate compensation.”

Vatican Not Priests’ Employer, U.S. Judge Says


Vatican Not Priests’ Employer, U.S. Judge Says

From the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/vatican-not-priests-employer-us-judge-says_n_1813001.html

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Vatican won a major victory Monday in an Oregon federal courtroom, where a judge ruled that the Holy See is not the employer of molester priests.

The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mosman ends a six-year question in the decade-old case and could shield the Vatican from possible monetary damages.

The original lawsuit was filed in 2002 by a Seattle-area man who said the Rev. Andrew Ronan repeatedly molested him in the late 1960s.

The plaintiff tried to show that Ronan and all priests are employees of the Vatican, which is therefore liable for their actions.

Mosman made a previous decision strictly on legal theory and determined that, if all the factual assertions made by the plaintiff’s lawyers in the case were true and applicable, then the Vatican would indeed employ Ronan. But on Monday, Mosman said he looked at the facts in the case and didn’t find an employer-employee relationship.

“There are no facts to create a true employment relationship between Ronan and the Holy See,” Mosman said in his ruling from the bench.

Jeff Anderson, attorney for the plaintiff, said he will appeal the decision.

“While we’re disappointed, of course, we’re not discouraged,” Anderson said.

Vatican attorney Jeff Lena said the case should put to rest the notion that the Holy See is liable for the actions of priests.

“This is a case in which, for the first time, a court in the U.S. has taken a careful, factual look at whether or not a priest in the U.S. can be viewed as an employee of the Holy See and the answer, unequivocally, was no,” Lena said.

The case is the last major U.S. sex abuse lawsuit against the Holy See. Cases in Kentucky and Wisconsin have been dropped in recent years.

The plaintiffs argued that what they contend was Ronan’s fealty to the Pope, the Vatican’s ability to promote priests, the Vatican’s laicization – or removal – process, and the ability to change priests’ training all pointed to the Vatican employing priests.

“We believe that under further scrutiny,” Anderson said in a news release, “the courts will find that Vatican protocols and practice make it clear that obedience to Rome required the secrecy and concealment practiced by priests and bishops as the clergy abuse crisis unfolded in the United States.”

Lena said the Vatican had little to do with the laicization process unless a priest appealed, and points out that the appellate court will not further scrutinize the facts, but rather the application of the law in the case.

The impact of Mosman’s ruling on other priest sex-abuse cases is not yet clear. The case has gone further than any other in attempting to get at the relationship between priests in the U.S. and the Vatican.

Douglas Laycock, a University of Virginia School of Law professor, said lawsuits against the Pope are usually dismissed on sovereign immunity grounds, with a U.S. court ruling that the Vatican can’t be sued because there is no jurisdiction in the U.S. to do so.

“This was likely filed more to make a political statement,” Laycock said.

Mosman took up several hypothetical analogies while questioning attorneys for both sides. He said that, for instance, the Oregon legal bar has many of the same powers over lawyers as the Vatican has over priests: It can disbar someone and issue sanctions, just as the Vatican can laicize priests, but doing so doesn’t constitute a firing.

The plaintiffs were trying to show that, by exerting control, the Vatican was the priests’ employer.

Mosman said that if he accepted the plaintiff’s argument that the Vatican maintains absolute control over all priests, and is therefore their employer, then all Catholics everywhere could similarly be considered employees of the Holy See.

After the ruling, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, director David Clohessy said in a statement that the Vatican wants “to have their cake and eat it too” by varying their definition of the church, sometimes calling it a top-down hierarchical institution and other times asserting that only locals have control over their employee – an assertion Lena said flies in the face of an appellate court ruling in 2009 and Monday’s decision by Mosman.

“It’s a shame that, once again, top Catholic officials successfully exploit legal technicalities to keep clergy sex crimes and cover ups covered up,” Clohessy said. “The truth is that the Vatican oversees the church worldwide, insisting on secrecy in child sex cases and stopping or delaying the defrocking of pedophile priests.”

The Vatican Can’t Be Held Responsible For Things It Couldn’t Have Known. The Problem Is… It Knew A Lot


The Vatican Can’t Be Held Responsible For Things It Couldn’t

Have Known. The Problem Is… It Knew A Lot.

From the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/24/the-vatican-cant-be-held-_n_1829178.html

Where does accountability begin and end? I hosted a heated HuffPost Live discussion about that question with Marci Hamilton, a lawyer trying to hold the Vatican accountable for pedophile priests.

This week, the Church won a victory over Hamilton when an Oregon federal court ruled that the Holy See is not the “employer” of molester priests. The case could shield the Church from possible monetary damages, although Hamilton says she’ll appeal.

The Vatican’s responsibility for the actions of priests on the other side the world is not just a legal question. It’s a moral one. Defending the Vatican on HuffPost Live was writer-reporter James Marshall Crotty, who asked: “Is the Pope responsible for every action of anybody who works in a church? … Is the Pope responsible for the part-time guy who helps in a church with the liturgy and does something wrong? Is the Pope responsible for the person who volunteers at a shelter that’s overseen by the Church?”

No. He has a point. The Church can only be held responsible for what it should reasonably have known. The problem for Crotty and the Church’s other defenders is… it knew a lot. The Vatican is not an impartial head office, detached from the daily workings of its dioceses. Nor does it lack moral influence over its global franchise. It is a deeply engaged institution — and it has systematically enabled child rapists to escape justice and freely rape again. When Pope Benedict ran the diocese of Munich and Freising in 1980 as Archbishop Ratzinger, it came to his attention that one of his priests had taken an 11-year-old boy into the mountains, fed him alcohol, locked him up, stripped him naked, and forced the boy to give him a blow job. Ratzinger’s response was to send the priest off for “therapy.”

Quite apart from the absurdity of the idea that a man of Ratzinger’s character enjoys the deepest possible kinship with an all-wise creator of the universe, is there any doubt that he, his predecessors, and his colleagues have presided over a global operation that encourages its foot soldiers to turn the same blind eye he did?

As I argued on HuffPost Live, imagine if the Catholic Church were a secular child care institution that ran a franchise of dormitories and boarding schools. Imagine if that child care company was implicated in a vast, recurring cover-up of child rape. Would we absolve the CEO of responsibility because he didn’t know about every instance? Would we leave the board of directors in place, on the narrow grounds that its pedophile employees were technically hired by subsidiary operations — even though they wore the company’s uniform, adhered to its instruction manual, used the same training methods, provided the same services, hired and fired whom the head office told them to, and pledged fealty to the CEO every day? The company would be shut down in a heartbeat. Its owners would be in jail.

Barbara Blaine, a survivor of sexual abuse by a priest, was the third guest in the HuffPost Live conversation. As the founder and president of the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests, she argued that Church officials try to have it both ways. “When it comes to something that has to do with the abuse of children, they want to wipe their hands of it and keep a distance,” she said. “But if that same priest were to come out in support of same-sex marriage, you can be sure that he or she would be removed or disciplined, and the Vatican would assert their authority.”

Sadly, most lawyers I’ve spoken with regard Hamilton’s case against the Vatican as a loser. When it comes to employment law, the Holy See has successfully distanced itself from the priests who work for it (or rather, apparently, who don’t.) It’s unsurprising that the institution has structured itself in such a way as to evade legal responsibility for its crimes. But that has no bearing on its moral responsibility. The Vatican may win in the courts of law. But in a higher court — a court whose judgment the Church, of all institutions, should care most about—the Vatican still has a case to answer.