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Media Double Standard On Pope Francis & Clerics v. UK Pols/Celebs & Bill Cosby ?


Media Double Standard On Pope Francis & Clerics v. UK Pols/Celebs & Bill Cosby ?

Views of Jerry Slevin, a Harvard and Catholic “schooled” retired international lawyer

From the Link: http://christiancatholicism.com/media-double-standard-on-pope-francis-clerics-v-uk-polscelebs-bill-cosby/

Reuters’ respected editor, John Lloyd, who is also a La Repubblica of Rome columnist and an Oxford journalism scholar, candidly observed about the Vatican’s recent Synod huddle: ” …  these ageing men did — and still do — have a serious sex scandal within their ranks – one which they have, in the main, dealt with badly.” Fair enough, but are journalists now doing much better, “in the main”, in covering Pope Francis’ failure after 20 months to take decisive action to curtail the clerical sex abuse scandal? No, with only rare exceptions.

CNN is a prime example. It appears, in effect, still to be giving Pope Francis and UK clerics a continuing pass on Vatican controlled secretive investigations, while pressing for an independent and transparent UK investigation of sex abuse allegations involving UK political leaders and celebrities.

A double standard, no? Do UK politicians’ opposition parties have more media clout than Pope Francis’ disorganized opposition that evidently is too often overwhelmed by Pope Francis’  media machine and his seeming support from opportunistic multi-billionaire media magnates in the UK/Australia/USA/Latin America and elsewhere? It appears so.

Pope Francis is clearly running out of time, as he seemingly is only going through some public relations motions on curtailing priest sex abuse. He must now either act decisively and transparently or he can expect to face more governmental investigations that he will most likely be unable to control. He no longer enjoys the support of major international powers that have protected the Vatican for centuries.

I discuss in detail Pope Francis’ dire overall predicament in my recent analysis also included below under “The Crisis Pope Francis Faces” . My analysis relies heavily on my study of the work of Fr. Hans Kung. He is a leading world authority on Catholic theology,  history and interreligious dialogue, a former mentor to Cardinal Walter Kasper (Pope Francis’ preferred theologian), and an occasional confidante to world leaders, including the former longtime UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Fr. Kung has over a five year period generously given me by constant example and occasional e-mail some encouragement, including with respect to my recent  analysis. Of course, I am an international lawyer, not a professional scholar, and Fr. Kung is not responsible for my judgments.

I have also benefited from the courageous work of Fr. Charles Curran, a worldwide authority on moral theology. Fr. Curran, like Hans Kung, also felt the Vatican’s inquisitorial whip for thinking freely and openly. Fr. Curran significantly has just boldly called on Pope Francis to admit that the Vatican has made mistakes in the area of its sexual morality teachings.

Who present the bigger threat to those vulnerable to sex abusers — a limited number of celebrities and politicians or an indeterminate number of potential predators from among 4,000+ bishops and 400,000+ priests. Catholic clerics mainly are unaccountable to any independent and transparent oversight. They also have literally unlimited access to vulnerable victims. And, sadly, they have already shown a disproportionate tendency to abuse, no? Why the disparate journalistic treatment? It makes no sense.

Geoffrey Robertson, QC, the world renowned no-nonsense UK/Australian international human rights lawyer, unexpectedly in a  recent Christiane Amanpour CNN interview, seriously undercut CNN’s seemingly  papal “star power” exception. Robertson boldly, in effect, called for a massive UK national investigation of all sexual abusers, in both church and state institutions, like the extraordinary one currently underway in Australia. This call by a prominent international lawyer on a prime international cable network for a UK national investigation is a major event. His call, in principle, applies to the USA as well. Perhaps, more US lawyers also will now call on President Obama to act as well.

Another bold Australian human rights advocate, Aletha Blayse, had already similarly called on President Obama to do likewise with a comparable national investigation commission in the US modeled on the Australian Royal Commission. The need for a US national investigation commission appears even greater than the UK’s need.

Indeed, even former US President Jimmy Carter is getting on the expanding bandwagon. As reported by the National Catholic Reporter, he recently addressed by video, the Call To Action at a large convention of Catholic seeking change. Carter, a prominent evangelical Christian, in surprisingly direct and prophetic words, told the Catholic attendees that they faced “a church that models our society in marginalizing many of its women, its people of color and, in fact, all those who question any interpretation by male leaders of Jesus’ mission.” Carter added: “I urge you to give witness to the possibilities that society will change. You are agents of that change. And I stand with you in the valued struggle to move our faith, our country and our planet forward … “.  Does Carter have President Obama’s ear on these matters? He may.

As to evident journalistic double standards, CNN in an important segment on sexual abuse looked at  the fundamental subject of equal justice under the law, in the context of a “Tale of Two Cities” — Rome/Vatican versus London/Philadelphia, as shown here:

http://amanpour.blogs.cnn.com/2014/11/19/star-power-bewitches-those-vulnerable-to-abuse-says-human-rights-lawyer/

CNN’s segment involves implicitly two interrelated questions: (1) whether alleged sex abusers should receive special treatment if they are famous and powerful, and (2) should the independence of the related criminal investigation vary if it is conducted in Rome at the Vatican as opposed to places like London or Philadelphia?  CNN, in effect, answered “No” to the first question, yet made an exception for Pope Francis’ investigation of accused clerical sex abusers,  and skipped past the second question, which, of course, should have also been asked squarely and answered “No”.

Occasioned by unfolding multiple sex abuse allegations involving several  political leaders, celebrities and Catholic clerics, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour  raised the hot topic of “star power” — whether the famous and powerful were beyond independent investigation and above  laws that cover sexual abuse that apply to everyday people.

Amanpour referred to the escalating tsunami of allegations of sex abuse  involving men ranging from celebrities like TV’s most famous “father figure”, Bill Cosby,  to UK political leaders and celebrities and to worldwide Catholic clerics who have preyed on innocent victims, mostly children. Her informed guest was Geoffrey Robertson, QC.

Robertson has written a classic and fair case study of the Vatican’s conduct in the priest abuse scandal, “The Case of the Popes: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse” (2010). He may also have personal insights here as well, as he describes his wife as having been “once a Catholic”.

When Amanapour, who reportedly had been instructed as a child at a UK convent school, gratuitously and revealingly volunteered that Pope Francis wanted to address priest child abuse, Robertson seemingly snickered and interjected, “He hasn’t yet”. This lead Amanpour to amend her statement about Francis quickly to: “He {Pope Francis} says he will, we’ll see and we’ll have to hold him accountable”. She did not reveal how Pope Francis would be held by CNN or anyone else to account if he fails to address the abuse scandal independently and transparently, as he and his predecessors have mostly failed to address it effectively for over a century or more. No one has held a pope accountable for anything significant during that time.

Amanpour, a mother, to her credit, directly asked Robertson what specifically needs to be done in the future to protect those most vulnerable. He replied significantly and pointedly: “I would think the Australian experience of a Royal Commission, which has got total powers to reveal what’s gone wrong and to make recommendations, that’s a very good start,” He added,  “Here {UK} we haven’t got started.”

Robertson, in the short interview, did not have the opportunity to elaborate on the subject of the extent to which a UK commission should investigate the Vatican’s conduct, as the Australian commission is trying to do. Pope Francis is currently trying, as his predecessors had, in effect, to investigate and judge his own bishops and priests secretively, clearly neither an independent nor transparent process like the Australian Royal Commission or even the standard UK, Australian or US criminal process.

As it stands now, alleged clerical sex abusers enjoy favorable treatment from a conflicted Vatican process. This cannot, and in my judgment as an international lawyer, will not stand much longer, for the reasons I discuss under “The Crisis Pope Francis Faces” below. Famous performers, powerful politicians and protected priests should, under modern jurisprudence, be subject to the same basic laws and comparable criminal procedures as the people whose lives are destroyed by their crimes. That is referred to worldwide as equal justice under the law for all.

Of course, from Robertson’s statements in his book, his considerable experience and simple logic, he would have to concur, I submit, that priests, bishops and even popes, should not be entitled to legal exemptions or special treatment when charged with serious crimes, especially against children. Even US Presidents Nixon and Clinton were not above the law.

Both Amanpour and Robertson also focused on the UK’s Home Secretary’s widely reported difficulties finding an chief investigator who satisfied the public’s desire for an independent and transparent sex abuse investigation. What is worth observing here is how the media, even a highly regarded and experienced TV commentator like CNN’s Amanpour, just accepted at face value the pope’s statement he would investigate, without even trying to consider discussing how to assess whether it would be an independent and transparent investigation. Given the Vatican’s poor record to date, it seems unacceptable to rely so much on Vatican’s bald statements. Pope Francis surprisingly still seems to get a free media pass after 20 months as pope, with little to show on curtailing clerical child abuse. That will not continue indefinitely, for the reasons as I discuss below under “The Crisis Pope Francis Faces”.

Robertson’s clear call on CNN for a broad national Australian style investigation commission is, as mentioned, a major development. Hopefully, he will be personally involved, given his fine record and unusual ability. Indeed, after his considerable work on famous legal cases involving, for example, holding Chilean ex-president General Pinochet to account, to defending WikiLeak’s  Julian Assange, Robertson has some star power of his own.

Indeed, Robertson’s chambers’ own  “star power ” has just been greatly enhanced by the marriage of actor/activist, George Clooney to Robertson’s able colleague, Alam Alamuddin, who earlier practiced at Sullivan & Cromwell, where I also earlier practiced.

Who knows? Perhaps, George Clooney, a strong advocate for Africa’s poor and for gay rights worldwide, might even decide to add his own considerable star power to secure protection for more children by calling for full accountability under the law for Catholic clerics of all ranks.

Raised reportedly a traditional Irish American Catholic family, Clooney would likely be knowledgeable about the Vatican’s shameful record on protecting children and its anti-contraception and anti-marriage  equality crusades.

These crusades have added to the miseries of many Africans, among others. including many children. Now that Pope Francis has appointed conservative South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier as one of the four leaders of Francis’ Final Synod for next October, Clooney’s advocacy here could be especially important for desperate Africans and others.

As “star power” sex abuse scandals are being revealed continually in the UK, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg recently and significantly said: “We are at an early stage of a reckoning with our past that is on a scale and gravity that just a few months ago might have seemed unimaginable and almost too horrific to contemplate. The task is to peel back the layers of deception that appear to have happened in the past.”

It seem clear that major “star power” sex abuse investigations in the UK are only in their infancy, which should concern Pope Francis. It is unclear whether the recent alleged sex scandals involving, among other matters, exploiting their position of power, that led to the resignations of two of the UK’s Catholic Church’s highest officials, Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien and the UK’s Bishop Kieran Conry, will be included in any UK public investigation. Given their key national positions, they should be included. They would likely be if Geoffrey Robertson’s call for a national commission is heeded.

As to Pope Francis’ new “papal protector of children”,  Cardinal Sean O’Malley, recently featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes, please see the recent detailed, and documented, information, from Anne Barrett Doyle, the excellent researcher at BishopAccountabillity.org, on Cardinal O’Malley’s poor history on child abuse prevention efforts, described in her “Six Ways Cardinal Sean O’Malley Has Mishandled the Abuse Crisis” at:

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/OMalley_Fact_Sheet.htm

To date, after a well publicized announcement almost a year ago, O’Malley has mainly had only a few photo ops with Pope Francis and some perfunctory meetings of his inchoate priest child abuse commission, usually timed to deflect negative publicity from UN committee condemnations of the Vatican’s priest child abuse cover-ups and the like. Now in his CBS interview, O’Malley has indicated he will visit the Vatican every two months apparently to check in for the latest photo ops, presumably when he attends the more important Council of Cardinals meetings. It appears the abuse commission will be run by Fr. Robert Oliver, who learned the ropes early as a canon lawyer under Boston’s  infamous Cardinal Law. It seems O’Malley will in the interim communicate with Oliver by FAX ! Are children any safer now? Please!

A year after first announcing this commission, O’Malley amazingly stated on 60 Minutes that the go-slow commission was working on some “protocols”, which his subsequent statements seem to suggest will focus more on protecting bishops than children. And CBS did not press him on the commission’s inexplicable and unacceptable organizational delays. It appears to be another instance of a media “pass” for the Vatican.

It seems quite clear that Pope Francis is intentionally pursuing effective child protection reform measures very slowly and almost secretly with this new advisory committee (A) headed by Cardinal Law’s successor, Cardinal O’Malley, who is experienced with “handling” abuse investigations confidentially and slowly, and (B) assisted now, as top assistant, by Cardinals Law’s, O’Malley’s  and Mueller’s predictable and pliable longtime canon lawyer, Fr. Robert Oliver.

Twelve years after the Boston Globe Catholic priest child abuse revelations and almost 30 years after Father Thomas  Doyle’s abuse report to Cardinals Law, Levada, Bevilacqua, Laghi, et al. and Pope John Paul II, for  O’Malley to say on CBS we are looking into “protocols” is a farce. And he seems to have gotten away with it!

Moreover, the Boston Globe has recently reported, based on legal documents the Globe examined, that Pope Francis’ choice to replace Fr. Oliver as the Vatican’s top prosecutor of clerics accused of child abuse, a prominent American Jesuit, was himself one of several Catholic officials who allowed a notorious abusive priest to remain in ministry for years after learning of his long history of sexual abuses. Fr. Robert Geisinger, named in September as the Vatican’s “promoter of justice,’’ was the second-highest-ranking official among the Chicago Jesuits in the 1990s when leaders were facing multiple abuse complaints against the Rev. Donald J. McGuire..

But, the Globe reported, the Jesuits failed to notify police or take effective steps to prevent McGuire from continuing to molest minors. Documents examined by the Globe show that Geisinger had detailed knowledge of the complaints against McGuire as early as 1995 and advised officials in Chicago on how to discipline McGuire as late as August 2002. McGuire was finally convicted in 2006 by a Wisconsin jury of molesting two boys who had notified civil authorities. He was also convicted on federal charges in 2008 and is serving a 25-year-prison sentence.

The Globe also reported: “It’s astonishing that, for such a high-profile, sensitive position, the Vatican wouldn’t want someone whose background is unassailable, in the sense that there shouldn’t even be questions raised,” Philip F. Lawler, the editor of Catholic World News, said of Geisinger.

Yes, it is astonishing that this Jesuit, with questionable credentials, has joined Fr. Oliver, Cardinal Law’s former canon lawyer, as Pope Francis’ two man priest abuse response team. After a year and a half as pope, is this the best Pope Francis can do to curtail the worst scandal facing the Catholic Church since the Reformation?  That seems impossible to conceive. Pope Francis needs to address this scandal effectively now while he still has time.

It would seem more appropriate that Fr. Geisinger and Fr. Oliver be subjects of Vatican investigations, rather than to be the investigators!

I have to wonder, as an international lawyer, if O’Malley, Oliver and Geisinger, all presumably US citizens, were picked to work on the latest papal public relations ploys to “do little or nothing” to really curtail clerical  abuse also because the US has not ratified the International Criminal Court (ICC) Treaty. Since the ex-pope had already been a subject of a complaint filed with the ICC, it must have occurred to the Vatican and its lawyers that whomever handles these matters can expect to face a further complaint at the ICC, a very serious matter. It might be more difficult to prosecute them under the ICC Treaty as US citizens if they had returned to the USA when the ICC prosecutor finally pursues the Vatican again, as I am confident as an international lawyer she will.

For the current “big picture” on the Vatican’s continuing failures here, please see the recent report by Fr. Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., the world’s leading expert on curtailing priest child sexual abuse, at:

http://christiancatholicism.com/how-survivors-have-changed-history-by-thomas-p-doyle-o-p/

Pope Francis seems, for over a year and a half now, to have made as his highest priority, protecting Catholic cardinals and bishops from prosecution, especially related to allegations of child abuse and/or related cover-ups, and of financial corruption, (A) by easing out, quietly and with minimal recriminations, controversial hierarchs by comfortable retirements, demotions or transfers (O’Brien, Brady, Conry, Tebartz-van Elst (Bling Bishop), Liveries, Burke, Rigali, even Wesolowski so far, et al.), and (B) by trying to co-opt completely all independent government investigations of hierarchs with Vatican controlled and secretive proceedings (especially Archbishop Wesolowski), that conveniently also protect against disclosures about other hierarchs that may have been implicated.

The USA situation seems equally bleak as the UK situation for the Vatican. Minneapolis whistleblower and former top diocesan official, Jennifer Haselberger, is reporting on her blog some unusual current Vatican attention possibly  to Archbishop Nienstedt’s status  and seeking diocesean bankruptcy protection. Meanwhile, Minneapolis media are also currently reporting about child porn video evidence that allegedly may have been destroyed, with a Vatican official’s involvement, by Obama’s Chief of Staff’s brother, Fr, Kevin McDonough. Child porn, and related evidence destruction, appear to involve Federal crimes as well as state crimes, which raise sensitive issues for Obama’s US Justice Department and his new Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, a no-nonsense prosecutor.
Who knows what is really going on with Obama, but if concerned citizens don’t demand much more Federal law enforcement involvement, including a national commission investigation as openers, like the one that Geoffrey Robertson just called for in the UK and Aletha Blayse has called for in the USA,  the USA is likely missing the one “fix” that could really make a long term difference, as the civil litigation process enters its fourth decade, with some good results but not enough.
It is unclear what impact the investigation of the brother of President Obama’s Chief of Staff has had on Obama’s apparent failure to step up here with a national commission, but it is troubling, to me at least. And of course, the media as far as I know has not raised the matter with the White House, as I think they should. Again, the Vatican seems to benefit here from another media pass.

Please see also my related remarks at:

http://christiancatholicism.com/popes-child-abuse-commission-crawls-while-his-family-synod-slips/

http://christiancatholicism.com/crisis-pope-francis-and-the-synod-face-a-mess-in-the-house-of-cards/

Incidentally, Pope Francis thanked Fr. Hans Kung for sending him his important new book on how to reform of the Catholic Church, “Can We Save the Catholic Church” (2013). Here is an excerpt from his book:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/07/save-the-catholic-church-_n_4740030.html

For more, see:

http://amzn.com/0007522029

Hans Kung, a Swiss priest, has for over a half century been a world recognized Catholic scholar, a best selling author on church history and theology and even an occasional adviser to top political leaders. As mentioned, Pope Francis’ preferred theologian, Cardinal Walter Kasper, served as a younger scholar as an assistant to Fr. Kung at Tuebingen University, Germany’s foremost theological faculty.

Hans Kung has for more than a half century engaged with, or influenced, several popes, including his former university colleague, Joseph Ratzinger (ex-Pope Benedict XVI), as well as John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and even during his student years at the Jesuits’ Gregorian University in Rome, Pope Pius XII. Cardinals and bishops have sought his advice, at least as early as his time serving as a key theological expert with Joseph Ratzinger and Jesuit Karl Rahner at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Fr. Kung has for decades offered to many interested Catholics worldwide, including Cardinals Bergoglio (Pope Francis) and Kasper, his own well articulated and scholarly supported alternative vision to that of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

For Hans Kung’s full warning to the effect that letting the ex-Pope, Joseph Ratzinger, stick around the Vatican would be a real mistake, please see:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/28/hans-kung-pope-benedict-will-be-a-shadow-pope_n_2781248.html

For Charles Curran’s important, informative and insightful new call for Pope Francis to acknowledge the the Vatican has made some mistakes, at least in the are of sexual morality, please :

http://ncronline.org//news/accountability/some-kind-gradualism-curran-says-papacy-should-admit-some-its-teachings-are

For former US President Carter’s address to Call To Action, a large Catholic reform group, supporting a reform agenda for the Catholic Church, please see:

http://ncronline.org/news/censured-priest-carter-support-cta

For Australian human rights activist, Aletha Blayse’s recent call on President Obama, to set up a US national presidential commission to investigate institutional child abuse, like the Australian Royal Commission, please see:

http://christiancatholicism.com/post-elections-obama-kids-the-catholic-church-the-salvation-army-et-al-child-abuse-war-and-the-need-for-a-national-commission-of-inquiry-into-child-abuse-by-aletha-blayse/

My remarks, “The Crisis Pope Francis Faces”, follows:

  1.  A Ray of Hope In A Crisis of Trust — A Holy Mess: Pope Francis says Catholics should “create a mess” to help him promote changes in the Catholic Church. The Catholic majority are pleased for now; although many are skeptical. Some see a bright ray of hope shining through the crisis of trust triggered by Church scandals. Others think the window of opportunity for hopeful light from Pope Francis will close soon if he is not prophetic and transparent. Indeed, some even think the Vatican’s current “holy mess” will be its final mess.
  2. Yet, Francis has so far offered few indications about concrete changes he really wants. Many Church leaders seem fearful of any changes. Yet, many Catholics and others are finally pressing for permanent changes. They have by now seen Vatican misconduct up close and too often. They now also understand better that many of the Vatican’s frequently ambiguous, if not vague, basic biblical and historical sources supporting papal power have too often been overplayed, if not misused, in encyclicals and a Catechism, to justify supreme papal power . Significantly, these permanent changes, that the Catholic majority seeks in good conscience and good faith, may differ ultimately from what many in the Vatican now want. As the “infallible Supreme Pontiff” for millions of Catholics, Pope Francis has the best papal opportunity in many years, if not centuries, to fix the broken Catholic Church. This may also be the final papal opportunity to clean up the “holy mess”. Time will soon tell.
  3. This crisis has led to one papal resignation already. Pope Francis appears for many reasons to be the Vatican’s best and last chance to lead on initiating overdue Church changes. Pressures beyond Vatican control can be expected to compel more severe changes if Francis fails to act effectively and transparently. This has already begun to happen with respect to Vatican finances, as a result of the continuing European governmental investigations of multiple misdeeds involving both the Vatican Bank and the Vatican’s own significant portfolio assets. Prospects for criminal prosecutions of Catholic Church officials have seemingly caused the Vatican to focus on overdue reforms in ways that earlier financial penalties and shameful publicity had rarely done before. As with corporate criminal executives worldwide, prosecution risk is generally a uniquely effective deterrent to future crimes by senior leaders.
  4. Almost 150 years ago, facing a similar crisis, Pope Pius IX refused to initiate overdue changes to his arbitrary and ineffective leadership of his Kingdom of the Papal States in central Italy. His key misguided “fix” was to push to be declared “infallible” in July 1870. Two months later, he militarily lost the Kingdom completely to Italian nationalists. Traditional papal protectors like France and Austria-Hungary stood by and passively watched, unwilling to support further papal mismanagement and capriciousness. Will Pope Francis make a similar mistake like Pius IX did by misjudging his precarious position?
  5.  The Vatican no longer even has comparable powerful protectors. It is mostly on its own now in the international political arena, like Pius XI’s Vatican was by 1870. Popes since 1870 have counter culturally tried secretively to rule mainly as “semi-divine infallible” absolute monarchs with tightly controlled subordinate bishops worldwide in an increasingly democratic world now linked by an open Internet and an 24/7 worldwide free media. The Vatican is running out of time to adjust to current reality and may be forced to do so soon.
  6. Building governmental pressures indicate currently that if the Vatican does not adopt key changes voluntarily and soon, the Vatican can be expected to be compelled to change involuntarily. This has recently already happened repeatedly, for example, in the financial area. Another recent example of increasing governmental pressure is the Australian national investigation into child abuse in religious organizations. It has already led to the Vatican changing both internal policies, and key leadership in Australia, including Cardinal George Pell, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Papal Nuncio, following a massive effort by government investigators. Similar investigations can be expected in other countries as well.
  7. The Vatican likely will be unable to contain much longer the cumulative and growing pressure, both internal and external, for change. Well publicized Vatican scandals continue to proliferate before a steadily skeptical world audience that is unconvinced either by the Vatican’s limited efforts so far or by its many public relations diversions. Many Catholics and others are becoming more impatient about protecting innocent victims of continuing Vatican scandals and misguided policies — including millions of poor women, children, couples, divorced persons and gay folks. The building governmental pressures indicate increasingly that the Vatican can change voluntarily or, as has already repeatedly happened in the financial area generally and in the child protection area in Australia, the Vatican will be compelled to change involuntarily.
  8. Significantly, the Vatican no longer benefits from the powerful international protection that had enabled the Vatican to avoid overdue changes for centuries. In the current world of democracies and a free press and Internet, the secretive Vatican is vulnerable. Neither the Vatican’s high priced consultants, lawyers and lobbyists, nor the Vatican’s opportunistic financial elite allies, who seek Vatican backing to protect the income inequality status quo that benefits them so disproportionately, are hardly comparable substitutes for the earlier military backing of the Holy Roman Emperor and other powers. These powers had effectively protected the Vatican for centuries from demands for change. No more.
  9. Meanwhile, Pope Francis’ Synod strategy has pulled back the curtain on the Vatican’s fallible and incoherent management structure and helped explain why ex-Pope Benedict had no real choice but to resign. In our 24/7 media world, as the Church’s scandal and mismanagement dominoes fall, a further domino effect will likely take over beyond the Vatican’s power to control it. Fear of this effect has likely contributed to provoking some of the strong opposition that Pope Francis is facing among many in the Church’s leadership.
  10. Pope Francis acts at times like a radicalized realist. He is pressing forward relentlessly on a novel path to change. When necessary, he is even bypassing or sidelining fearful and entrenched opponents and factions. His opponents often overlook the many risks that presently exist in the Vatican’s vulnerable predicament. Pope Francis is evidently well aware of these risks. At times, some of his opponents prefer “to play their fruitless fiddles while Rome burns”.
  11. And of course, money is usually lurking in these factions’  approaches to changes. For example, the German and US bishops seem to have basically different approaches to changes like permitting communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. German bishops depend mainly on a per capita government subsidy, presently totally more than $6 billion a year, that pays the bishops more if more Catholics remain on the government registry; hence the German bishops’ inclusive approach to divorced and remarried Catholics and their families. US bishops, on the other hand, depend significantly on fewer major donors who reward the bishops’ ability to draw out fundamentalists to vote for low-tax right wing US political candidates. These fundamentalists oppose most changes, especially those relating to traditional marriage. Not surprisingly, US bishops tend to oppose changes to traditional marriage sacramental rules. As with understanding approaches to other changes, sometimes it pays to follow the money.
  12. Significantly, the Catholic majority intuitively understands that these risks generated by the present crisis, especially from building governmental pressures on the Vatican, have paradoxically also generated an unprecedented opportunity to restore the Church to an earlier condition — to a Church that Jesus’ first disciples would have recognized as completely consistent with Jesus’ Gospel message of love of God and of neighbors, even of enemies. This will be a welcoming Church again that satisfies the needs of both conservative and progressive Catholics.
  13. Well publicized Catholic Church scandals have triggered a unique situation — both an unprecedented crisis and an unexpected opportunity. This crisis (A) erodes Catholic trust in light of the longstanding gap between the Vatican’s words and deeds, (B) invites outside governmental intervention at a time when the Vatican lacks powerful international protectors like it had for centuries, and (C) underscores the urgent need for key changes in Church structure and doctrine. The crisis has also contributed, as indicated, to one pope’s unanticipated resignation and to the replacement pope’s unpredictable revolution.
  14. Before his 80th birthday in barely two years, Pope Francis can successfully seize the opportunity, follow his conscience and apply his unique status, forceful temperament and popular appeal. Most importantly, he can declare “infallibly” key changes. By then, he will have received new input from his two advisory Synods of Bishops. He has already been enlightened by his valuable almost two years of  experience as pope. He now also is unhampered by his prior pastoral positions and unfettered by his earlier ideological constraints as an obedient cardinal, bishop and Jesuit. If Francis fails to act effectively soon, the consequences will likely be quite negative for the leadership of the Catholic Church.
  15. Pope Francis can accomplish much if he wants to and finds the wisdom and courage to do so. Equally important, it seems unlikely any of his successors will get a more propitious opportunity in the foreseeable future to adopt long overdue changes. It may be now or never for Pope Francis and the Vatican.
  16. Any needed changes that Pope Francis leaves uncompleted, whether by choice or circumstances, Catholics can then push to complete soon thereafter, with or without Vatican support. Catholics can be expected to do so, given the current Catholic majority’s momentum and mounting democratic governmental pressures. The Catholic majority can expect help in effecting these changes from powerful forces, outside the Church structure, that are now pressing harder for key Vatican changes, like greater accountability and transparency.
  17.  The Making of the Unique Present Crisis: The Catholic Church is in the throes of its worst crisis since the Reformation. Vatican leaders in the 16th Century, aided by powerful outside military protectors, had mainly evaded making overdue structural changes, and their successors also managed with outside protection to avoid such changes mostly during the four centuries since.
  18. Nevertheless, Church changes are badly needed now and the Vatican no longer has any dominant outside protectors willing to help it avoid the changes. The changes cannot be deferred much longer if the Vatican wants to avoid both further Church decline and splintering into competing factions and constant interference from outside governments. Pope Francis’ confident and bold approach, and the Vatican’s evident need to avoid further negative repercussions from the current crisis, are both generating some hope now, as well as creating what appears to be the best opportunity since the Reformation for the worldwide Catholic majority to press the Vatican successfully for key overdue changes.
  19. According to Augustine: “God judged it better to bring good out of evil, than to suffer no evil to exist.” Catholics are now pondering whether God will soon bring some good changes out of this evil crisis, likely with some help from either Pope Francis or the worldwide Catholic majority or some international investigators or some combination of all three.
  20. There are now hopeful indications (A) that the Catholic Church may restore some of its management structure to its earliest consensual, bottom up and distributed form, from its current coercive, top down and hierarchical form, and (B) that some questionable traditional Church teachings may change to fit mercifully the actual lived experience of sincere Catholics and to conform honestly to current biblical, historical and scientific scholarship, all with or without the Vatican’s affirmative assistance.
  21. The scandals underlying the crisis have deeply discouraged millions of concerned Catholics, yet many of them now also see a new ray of hope. This hope springs less from Pope Francis’ skillful public relations efforts than from the likelihood that the present crisis will necessarily help accelerate Church changes. Moreover, some of these changes are ones that the usually silent Catholic majority can and likely will play a key role in bringing about. This would be a refreshing change in itself for the Catholic majority, a change from only being able to react passively to misguided top down Vatican decisions dictated by a celibate, aging, conflicted and self perpetuating all male leadership.
  22. It appears likely now that the Pope Francis will soon make, or be induced by outside pressures to make, major structural and other changes — changes that the Vatican had been able to resist making for centuries under earlier better positioned popes. Powerful governmental, legal and media forces are now pressing from the outside for changes, whether the presently weakened Vatican wants changes or not.
  23. While Pope Francis mostly can only play the bad cards that ex-Pope Benedict dealt him, he can use both his papal authority over bishops and the Catholic majority and this mounting outside pressure, enhanced by the power of his personal popularity and his strong will, to help convince his entrenched Vatican opposition that voluntary Church changes are more in their interest than the otherwise inevitable involuntary changes could be expected to be.
  24. Paradoxically, these anticipated changes can also help restore the Catholic Church to one that is much closer, in essential structure and compassionate spirit, than the current Church is to the Church that Jesus’ earliest disciples, including prominently some women, left behind for over three centuries.
  25. Pope Francis has brought fresh hopes after centuries of papal evasions. Martin Luther, an Augustinian friar, by 1520 had sought similar changes to an earlier Vatican bureaucracy then slithering through major scandals. Only military protection initially from the Holy Roman Emperor ultimately saved, for another 350 years until 1870, the Vatican’s centuries old Kingdom of the Papal States from many of the religious wars, internal divisions and radical reforms that followed Luther’s revolt. But Vatican scandals and structural shortcomings continued mostly as unresolved problems.
  26. The usually well positioned papacy generally remained unchanged structurally after the Reformation until the popes’ imperial protectors faded by 1870 and then finally disappeared in the First World War. This was almost 1,600 years after the powerful Roman Emperor Constantine in the Fourth Century first sought, often in practice by threats and bribes, to redirect the early Catholic Church leadership to become part of his imperial bureaucracy. Constantine’s and his successor’s imperial designs still infuse the current Vatican’s coercive and top down leadership structure.
  27. In 1870, Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) lost his last major monarchical protector due to the Franco-Prussian War. Pius IX then, without a strong outside protector, promptly lost the Kingdom of the Papal States finally on September 20, 1870 to a direct military assault on the Vatican by Italian nationalists. Both the Vatican and the Italians suffered fatalities. Two months prior to this assault, Pius IX had desperately tried to offset some of the projected negative effects of the Vatican’s expected military and political defeats. He sought to salvage some papal prestige on July 18, 1870, by being declared infallible at the First Vatican Council (Vatican I) that then soon ended prematurely due mainly to the military risks.
  28. A new era of “semi-divine Supreme Pontiffs”  thus began in 1870 and still continues under Pope Francis today, as he presses to solidify, at least temporarily, his extensive power over the Vatican bureaucracy, the Curia, as well as over the world’s bishops.
  29. The powerful prestige of infallibility has been the keystone of papal power from 1870 until now. Papal infallibility, ironically, has also been the tragic papal flaw. Concerns for preserving a claim to being infallible have, it seems, prevented politically insecure popes from making long overdue changes out of fear of appearing to be fallible and, yes, a mere mortal.
  30. This almost obsessive papal concern has been quite evident, for example, in the continuing papal opposition to contraception, mainly based on outdated natural law philosophy and medieval physiology, despite the overwhelming contrary witness in good conscience of the Catholic majority, and the latest strong and contrary evidence from natural science and modern philosophy.
  31. Incidentally, the Vatican’s opposition to family planning seems to be  a “win win” proposition for the Catholic leadership and a “lose lose” situation for couples. especially with other children, who cannot afford more children financially or emotionally.  From the Vatican’s perspective, if Catholic babies survive and thrive, they can then become potential future Church donors and docile voters to enhance the Vatican’s position in bargains with desperate vote seeking political forces. If the babies do not thrive, they become their parents’ or society’s problems, not the Vatican’s to be sure.
  32. Nevertheless, the Vatican’s strong pro-pregnancy opposition to contraception is unlikely to generate at current birthrates enough new Catholic babies to offset the Church’s escalating exodus among the practicing Catholic majority. This ongoing net decline in practicing Catholics is further eroding the Vatican’s already declining political influence and financial resources.
  33. Ironically, the more that recent popes press their opposition to positive ongoing human advances like pharmaceutical contraception, that enable couples, especially poor women, to plan their families, the less infallible they appear to be to more Catholics. The present crisis, exacerbated by the disarray among the pope and some cardinals and bishops exhibited at the recent Vatican Synod that ironically had been intended to curtail part of this crisis, also has put unsustainable additional weight on the already weak claim to papal infallibility.
  34. For almost 150 years until now, popes have been shrewdly able, despite the loss by 1870 of their actual Kingdom in central Italy, to maneuver politically, diplomatically and financially to retain some of their international influence, operational independence, considerable wealth and legal immunity, free of international laws and foreign restraints. Are the Vatican’s unique international status and contrived legal immunity claim both now about to collapse in the present crisis? Yes, it appears that the Vatican’s unique status and legal immunity are both likely facing collapse soon enough, no matter what Pope Francis now does.
  35. Many of the problems Luther initially noted in 1517 remained unresolved even after Vatican I in 1870, and still remain unresolved. These include Luther’s issues with the Vatican’s top down, coercive and unaccountable Renaissance structure and with recent popes’ historically and biblically questionable, if not idolatrous, claim of unaccountable absolute papal power. Vatican I was terminated abruptly and prematurely due mainly to the military risks, before the relationship of bishops and the Catholic majority to the newly proclaimed infallible popes could be addressed fully. Pius XI and many of his successors, through Pope Benedict XVI (2005-2013), have at times used this uncompleted and unexpected result for almost 150 years to extend papal power over bishops and the Catholic majority.
  36. These continuing problems remain after (A) unsuccessful Vatican efforts prior to 1945 to seek favorable and special political arrangements with powerful leaders, such as with the Fascist dictators of Italy, Germany and Spain, (B) numerous Vatican efforts since 1945 to solidify in many countries favorable arrangements with various powerful political, financial and media elites, and (C) significant and still uncompleted and frustrated reform efforts from 1962 to 1965 at the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II).
  37. Most significantly, there are no longer any Holy Roman Emperors, or any other powerful monarchs, dictators or even democratically elected leaders, who appear willing to save the Vatican from facing the international legal and political consequences of its seeming sins and harmful policies. On the contrary, outside governments are already currently and forcefully pressing the Vatican firmly on its financial misconduct. Moreover, these outside forces are now also pressing hard, including through UN committees and national investigation commissions, on other Vatican misconduct, including facilitating priest child abuse.
  38. The current crisis paradoxically presents all Catholics worldwide with an unprecedented, even hopeful, opportunity to resolve longstanding problems, some that even predate Luther. Whether the Vatican will on its own initiative seize this opportunity positively or will imprudently wait, like Pius IX did in 1870, (A) to be invaded, now by Italian, Australian and other government investigators and prosecutors, and (B) to be forced to accept the latest geopolitical reality, remains to be seen.
  39. Catholics believe that God providentially guides their Church in mysterious ways. Some even wonder if God is not using this crisis as an opening for Church structural reforms overdue for centuries. Catholics increasingly are losing trust in their top leadership and want effective changes now. Many Catholics are curtailing their donations or just leaving the Church. Others are remaining nominally, but opting out of many Church rituals and doctrines for themselves and their children. And many younger Catholics are at best just indifferent about participation in a seemingly out of touch organization run, in effect from all appearances, as an all male absolute monarchy for the benefit of a few.
  40. The well publicized Church scandals include clerical sexual misconduct and widespread child abuse, as well as financial corruption and excesses — some longstanding and pervasive. As mentioned above, this crisis paradoxically may offer Catholics some hope and the best opportunity since the Reformation to restore the Church to the consensual, bottom up and distributed management structure that Jesus’ first disciples, prominently including women, originally left behind for centuries.
  41. Catholics overwhelmingly want leaders they can trust, which essentially means leaders who are accountable, not absolute, and who act transparently, not secretively. Given the Catholic Church’s pervasive worldwide influence and its universal potential as a strong public force, and counterweight to non-religious leaders, for either good or evil, the issue of how the Catholic Church is structured matters to all the world’s citizens, and to their political leaders as well.
  42. Governments worldwide are responding more actively to citizen complaints and media pressure about these Church scandals by investigating and prosecuting clerical crimes being revealed. Catholics elect and influence their political leaders, who in turn can influence Church leaders, who currently remain completely free of any democratic oversight by the Catholic majority.
  43. At present, the pope is still the last word on almost all matters concerning the Church and its leadership and laws, even on matters that impact the overall society like access to contraception and protection of children. The pope, as Supreme Pontiff, is purportedly accountable to nobody else, which is at the heart of the present crisis. Making sure no man is above the law is the modern antidote to the ailment of modern popes who seek to be, and to operate as, Supreme Pontiff without accountability.
  44. Citizens worldwide can be expected steadily and increasingly to encourage their political leaders to press the Vatican for major Church structural reforms, especially by these leaders enacting and enforcing vigorously civil laws against Catholic leaders who commit crimes. This legal process, especially prosecutions of alleged crimes, will very likely, if not inevitably, lead to the outside imposition of Church structural reforms in the near term if the Vatican fails to adopt the reforms on its own initiative.
  45. Continually hard pressed Vatican leaders really have no alternative, as earlier European absolute monarchs in France, Germany, Italy and elsewhere painfully learned, other than to submit to independent oversight by the Catholic majority.
  46. Meanwhile, the Vatican is risking the division of the Church into numerous splinter cults and the incarceration of some of its leaders for crimes related to the sexual and financial scandals, as the Catholic hierarchy wastes precious time at Synods debating arcane theological topics like graduality.
  47. This crisis for the “99.99% Catholic faithful majority” appears to be mainly about TRUST. For many of them, it is mostly about losing trust in the “0.01% Catholic leadership minority”, given the leadership’s frequently flawed and unaccountable management and the scandalous and repetitive misbehavior of too many of them.
  48. By contrast, the crisis for the leadership minority appears to be mainly about SURVIVAL. For many cardinals, bishops and priests, this crisis seems too often to be largely about trying to save at all costs the current top down and coercive Church structure that has supported and rewarded many of them so handsomely.
  49. The present crisis has already led to unintended negative consequences — even to unprecedented and growing challenges to worldwide Catholicism, including: (A) a leadership challenge, to the Pope’s ethical authority and doctrinal infallibility as the “last word”; (B) a political challenge, to the Vatican’s modern immunity from outside governmental oversight and to its opportunistic support of plutocratic political promoters;(C) a financial challenge, to the Vatican’s long term financial viability and to its self interested arrangements with selective financial, oil and media moguls; and (D) a competitive challenge, to the Catholic Church’s prospects in its continuing competition with other Christian and world religions, especially Islam, and even with non-religious secularism.
  50. These accelerating challenges surely have influenced, if not at times dictated, the Vatican’s recent tactics, and even its public style on many issues. This historically is almost a new papal experience, since modern popes mostly had operated secretly as near absolute monarchs for centuries. It is becoming increasingly evident, however, that popular popes alone are insufficient to resolve the crisis — the Vatican can no longer defer confronting these challenges fully, honestly, transparently and promptly, even if they would rather defer them as recent popes often have. Both internal Church political factions, and external governmental legal forces, are increasingly pressing for greater papal accountability, sooner rather than later. Deferral is no longer a viable papal alternative.
  51. Jesus left a short, simple and revolutionary oral message of “Good News” about a caring and trustworthy God. Jesus, it appears, thought this message could be passed on by word of mouth by his usually uneducated disciples. 2,000 years later the oral message has been buried seemingly under millions of written words by thousands of scribes that have obscured Jesus’ direct simplicity, often to advance the personal agenda of those overseeing the scribes with their countless and opportunistic “explications” of what Jesus really meant.
  52. Was Jesus naive or foolish? And is his originally oral message essentially that simple? Even a quick perusal of the New Testament indicates Jesus’ core message is simple and direct, especially when stripped of some of the heavily philosophical and selectively imposed explications in Latin and Greek. This often stultifying and self serving explication process was most recently illustrated amply by the Catechism of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
  53. Will the Vatican now finally begin to try to remove the self serving papal gloss and counterproductive clerical crust that have for many centuries obscured Jesus’ radical and revolutionary Good News —  to trust in a caring God and to love one’s neighbors, even enemies, as oneself? Or will the the Catholic leadership minority once again futilely try to contain the current crisis within its latest hierarchical structure?
  54. Will the Church leadership minority now restore its management structure to the early Church’s consensual and distributed network of bishops accountable to the faithful majority from the current coercive, top down and unaccountable model? And will the leadership minority now restore its general Church-state policy to Jesus’ earliest approach of peaceful coexistence with political leaders and prophetic witness for the poor and disadvantaged from the current Vatican approach that seeks opportunistic financial, legal and other leadership preferences in exchange for papal political support?
  55. Hopefully, the coercive and top down Vatican will finally soon restore, or be required to restore, some meaningful consensual and bottom up power to the Catholic faithful majority. Anything less will merely be at best a temporary glue on a crumbling structure. 500 years after Luther had been more than enough time to fix the structure, but the Vatican has failed, and is continuing to fail, to do so. It will continue to fail unless and until it submits to effective and transparent oversight by the Catholic majority, as almost all other absolute monarchies in history have already learned, often the hard way following violent revolutions.
  56. A consensual and bottom up Church management approach had been a common norm in the Church that Jesus’ disciples, including women, left behind for the first three centuries. That was before the decisive top down takeover, in effect, of the Church hierarchy that began under the powerful Roman Emperor Constantine and his imperial successors. Constantine’s top down and coercive Fourth Century legacy has survived in Rome in key respects, and still fundamentally overshadows Vatican decision making and operations. This must and will change, perhaps much sooner than the Vatican presently anticipates.
  57. As indicated with Pius IX’s underestimation of Italian nationalists, and Pius XI’s and Pius XII’s overestimation of Mussolini’s and Hitler’s protections, whatever else infallibility encompasses, international politics is evidently excluded. Time will soon tell if the current Vatican leaders are any wiser than their modern predecessors were.
  58. Millions of disrespected couples, women, children, divorced and gay persons and other innocent and marginalized victims of the Vatican’s current unchristian policies deserve the initiation of positive Church changes, as soon as practicable. Moreover, the beneficial worldwide potential for Jesus’ simple message of loving God and one’s neighbor, including enemies, needs to be freed of the blinders and constraints that too many popes have opportunistically and selectively imposed on it for centuries. Not only were modern popes “Prisoners of the Vatican” unnecessarily. So was Jesus.
  59. It is important in my judgment that citizens of the world, especially Catholics, weigh in now strongly and often, and try to influence the potential Vatican outcomes. Since the Vatican operates mostly secretively and often covers its real objectives with frequent and well funded media diversions, I have at times tried to draw my best inferences and projected what seemed to me to be likely outcomes, in light of the evidence available to me and my long legal experience. Some, of course, will object, but this appears necessary to assess the actions of an organization that still too often is shown to be dissembling considerably.
  60. My approach is intended to assist concerned readers in acting timely and proactively to advance structural and other reforms, and not just reacting defensively, after the fact, to papal faits accomplis. It is the Church of all Catholics, including the 99.99% faithful majority, and not just of the 0,01% leadership minority, and all need to weigh in now as their situations permit.
  61. The present crisis presents major risks for the Catholic Church’s leadership minority. Providentially, it also presents an unprecedented opportunity for the Catholic majority to recover their Church from the clerical clique that centuries ago hijacked Jesus’ message. By recovering their Church, Catholics can then re-direct it and unleash the full potential of Jesus’ simple message of love of God and neighbor to a world that at times seems eager to hear that needed message of hope and peace.
  62. The Current Unprecedented Situation:A free media in a steadily more accountable world is pulling back the Vatican’s dark curtain letting all see the scandals, up close and personal. Luther, as mentioned above, had complained loudly about similar scandals as early as 1517. Yet, it took 500 years for the many misdeeds of Pope Alexander VI and other Renaissance clerics to be featured in several “Borgia TV Series”. Today, the latest “Secrets of the Vatican” are widely reported almost simultaneously, as in a recent PBS documentary by that name covering several current Vatican scandals.
  63. Moreover, Renaissance popes were protected by a powerful Holy Roman Emperor whose last successor lost power a century ago. Politically and militarily, popes since the end of the Second World War in 1945 have been dependent for protection and support mainly on Western democratically elected leaders.
  64. Even now after 1700 years, however, Constantine’s Fourth Century legacy of an imperial top down and coercive leadership structure remains influential in Rome, centuries after most of the world had rejected unaccountable monarchs. European monarchical protection of the Vatican diminished after 1850 and disappeared completely by 1918, replaced soon thereafter with de facto alliances with Fascist dictators in Italy and Germany and Spain until Italy and Germany’s defeat by 1945.
  65. As late as 1903, significantly, the Austria-Hungary Emperor reportedly vetoed a top contender in a papal election leading to the election of Pope Pius X. That was the last election prior to the start of World War I, in which the Austria Hungary Empire was dismembered, in effect, ending imperial veto power in papal elections. That veto power, however, had sometimes worked positively to restrain elections of some less dependable papal candidates.
  66. The defeat of the Fascist powers by 1945 has contributed to popes subsequently having almost to scramble opportunistically at times to make arrangements on a local basis with many countries for political protection and financial advantage for the Vatican and its bishops and priests. These papal arrangements have often been negotiated with local dictators and wealthy elites, as well as with some democratically elected leaders seeking local papal political support as opportunities arose in particular countries, most noticeably Pope John Paul II’s close ties with US President Ronald Reagan and his right wing Republican successors, including President George W. Bush.
  67. Popes Benedict XVI and Pope Francis continued to maintain close ties with right wing US Republicans and continue to provide them with political support through the US bishops and otherwise.  This is reportedly already underway for the 2016 US presidential election. Popes tend to be more pragmatic than ideological when under considerable pressures as in the present crisis.
  68. With the unrelenting spotlight that the 24/7 modern media now shines, the timeless “philosopher king” leadership question of Plato’s Republic now arises in Rome publicly and dramatically: Can any man, even a popular pope, be trusted honestly to face a major crisis of trust like the Vatican is facing, and to set important policies for over a billion people, unless he is truly accountable to others and also decides key issues transparently?
  69. Given the current pope’s age, the further question arises, are his successors also to be trusted without accountability? What have Catholics learned from the sordid history of bad popes, as well as from the revelations of current scandals that seem at times to be as sordid as the earlier scandals? Given the present crisis, the Vatican’s procedures and processes, now and in the future, in evaluating and adopting reforms are almost as important as the potential substantive reforms themselves.
  70. Pope Francis had little choice, it appears, but to try to contain this crisis of trust, after suddenly, in the midst of this crisis, unexpectedly succeeding the first pope to resign in almost 600 years. Francis’ Synods of Bishops strategy, his ongoing sophisticated and well funded media campaign, and his efforts to shore up favorable arrangements with some powerful world leaders of government, finance and media, all appear to be key parts of his strategy to contain this crisis.
  71. The Vatican under the current pope and his successor surely must soon either “lead and act”, or they will most likely be compelled, by internal and external pressure, to “follow and react”. Neither this present crisis of trust, nor the resulting challenges, can be avoided much longer to any significant extent.
  72. Some Relevant Recent History: The Vatican under Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) had aligned itself in the Second World War (1939-1945) with the once seemingly invincible, but losing Fascist dictators, Hitler and Mussolini and their “neutral” ally, Franco. Pius XII had been born into a Roman family that had been immersed earlier in the monarchical Papal States. He served for almost two decades under the autocratic Pope Pius XI (1921-1939). A top down coercive leadership must have seemed natural to Pius XII.
  73. Nevertheless, it had become increasingly clear by Mussolini’s removal in July 1943 that Western autocratic structures were losing to Western democratic structures and that major Catholic Church reforms were sorely needed, if not inevitable. By September 1943, Pius XII was endorsing modern biblical scholarship, which eventually planted the seeds that undermine some papal claims as Supreme Pontiff.
  74. Pius XII’s less well born immediate successor, Pope John XXIII (1958-1963), an experienced diplomat and church historian, knew change was inevitable in the postwar situation populated by powerful Western democracies and decided boldly in early 1959, after only a short time as pope, that major Church reforms were badly needed and even overdue. This was clearly evident, especially after the defeat of the Vatican’s powerful European allies, Italy and Germany, and the takeover by 1950 of Eastern European Catholic countries like Poland, Hungary, Croatia and the Baltic States, by the Soviets.
  75. John XXIII must have also understood that as an “infallible pope” that he could ultimately control the key outcomes of the Second Vatican Council (1962- 1965), or “Vatican II”. He called for the Council in 1959 less than a decade after Pius XII had in 1950 exercised the ultimate papal “infallibility power” in declaring Mary’s Assumption. That dramatic papal exercise appears to have been a desperate attempt to flex his “semi-divine infallibility” power after suffering the defeat of his Fascist allies and in the face at the time of the rise of Soviet power under Stalin.
  76. So John XXIII could risk letting the 2,500 plus Vatican II bishops talk with some freedom at Vatican II. As Pope, he would still have the last say.  Pope Francis seems to have a similar understanding that he has the last word no matter what his current Synods may decide or however the Synod bishops may vote. For modern popes since the 1870′s declaration of papal infallibility, councils like Vatican II and  Synods of Bishops are ultimately only advisory. This positions Francis to act decisively on Synod Bishops’ advice and otherwise.
  77. Unfortunately, John XXIII died in 1963 before he could implement many essential reforms as he may have planned to do. John had served in key diplomatic posts directly under two autocratic popes, Pius XI and Pius XII. These popes had enjoyed until 1945 powerful Fascist protection and support. John XXIII evidently understood well that the days of unaccountable autocratic popes protected by conservative European monarchs or Fascist dictators were over, especially with the postwar expansion of democratically accountable governments in many Catholic countries, including Italy and Germany.
  78. John XXIII in January 1959 had suddenly, unexpectedly and almost haphazardly announced publicly his reform intentions and initiated the preparation for the massive 2,500 plus bishops’ Second Vatican Council. His old friend, Paul VI, who was an experienced Vatican bureaucrat and his successor, reportedly thought in 1959 that John was stirring up a “hornets’ nest”. Similarly, Pope Francis appears intentionally now to be “creating a mess” with his unusual Synods. Undeterred, however, by John XXIII’s unexpected boldness and realizing that a retrenchment opportunity had been presented by John’s death early in the Council’s proceedings, the Vatican’s “hornets” reacted, specifically some of its entrenched bureaucrats like powerful Cardinal Ottaviani (1890-1979), and their preferred choices of subsequent Curial accommodating Popes, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
  79. These Vatican bureaucrats like Ottaviani and their successors, in effect, sidelined several key Vatican II era reforms for a half century with their “reform of the reform”, generally, a rhetorical euphemism for obstruction. These sidelined reforms included those relating to papal power sharing, married priests, contraception and even priest child abuse.
  80. These and other inevitable reforms can no longer be sidelined by the Vatican without risking dire consequences, given the escalating internal and external pressures at present on the Vatican. Maintaining, at times, the almost medieval Vatican status quo is no longer a papal option, as it may earlier have been for Pope Francis’ predecessors.
  81. This current crisis is now forcing the Vatican to try harder (A) to defend its exclusive doctrinal authority, (B) to maximize its wealth and solidify its allies among powerful national elites, and (C) to counter its religious competitors, as it tries try to survive reasonably intact.
  82. After a half century of frequent papal resistance and Vatican bureaucratic diversions that thwarted key elements of John XXIII’s and Vatican II’s reform approach, Pope Francis appears to be seeking to resume some of what John XXIII had tried to initiate. But Francis may not be doing enough, soon enough, as he approaches his eightieth birthday in two years.
  83. Many Catholics’ mistrust has now even led some of the Catholic 99.99% publicly to question the Vatican’s selective interpretation and application of Jesus’ simple Gospel message of love of God and neighbor. The Vatican’s opportunistic approach to the Gospels had earlier been at least widely tolerated, if not accepted by many Catholics. Now even at the initial Vatican Synod of the Family in October 2014, a significant number of bishops selected by  prior conservative popes even voted against several traditional Vatican positions. Such episcopal independence had been scarce since 1980 under the prior two popes.
  84. The Vatican dam has burst under the pressure of the current scandals and the the floods being released will not likely by contained by anything short of a return to the consensual, bottom up approach that prevailed in the Church and that Jesus’ disciples, including some women, left behind for over three centuries. The current coercive and top down papal management structure is not likely to contain the floods much longer, without major reforms, including especially power sharing with an independent Catholic majority. Cardinals and bishops who resist this pressure will likely be swept away by the flood of reforms, as happened with Cardinal Raymond Burke even before Pope Francis strengthened his authority to remove bishops.
  85. Strategic Alternatives and Assumptions: Any serious and objective assessment of this current Church crisis must consider at the outset several key questions. How is Pope Francis, after almost two years as pope, addressing this current crisis, as well as the related challenges to the Pope’s moral leadership and doctrinal authority, to the Vatican’s political and financial positions, and to the Catholic Church’s competitive advantage that this crisis has dramatically and unexpectedly provoked? What are Francis’ strategic options to resolve the crisis and which strategy has he selected? Is his selected strategy based on valid assumptions and truthful analysis? What are the likely outcomes from this crisis for the Vatican?
  86. The Expanding Crisis and Interplay of Related Challenges: The current Catholic Church crisis, and the four challenges the crisis has provoked, have been occasioned by almost unending scandals These scandals involve priest child abuse, bishop misconduct and financial corruption. The yet uncontrolled scandals have caused the ongoing crisis, while the insatiable 24/7 media cycle and the Internet are accelerating it non-stop.
  87. The scandal fallout is even leading many Catholics to question the previously accepted assumption that “The Holy Father knows best.” Basic questions now arise about infallible papal authority, as well as the Vatican’s hierarchical structure and unquestioned control of biblical and moral theology, especially regarding sexual and gender matters.
  88. Pope Francis indicated as the new pope at the World Youth Congress in July 2013 that he wanted a “mess” to stimulate change, and now he has one he helped create. He cannot now avoid confronting and attempting to defuse the expanding crisis, since it has unleashed unstoppable international legal and political responses. Previously, modern popes could discuss some pressing issues, while also deferring other important issues, and then sit on or even avoid the implications of these discussions, even for a half century as with some of the key issues discussed in the 1960′s during the Second Vatican Council period, such as married priests, power sharing among bishops and contraception.
  89. No more! With the pressure from the current crisis increasing, the Vatican can no longer just table these issues, and must address them now, along with additional significant issues, like (A) holding bishops accountable to the 99.9% faithful majority, (B) ordaining women priests, (C) celebrating gay marriages, (D) welcoming divorced and remarried Catholics at Mass, and (E) protecting children.
  90. These scandals in today’s wide open media world have created unprecedented reputational, political, financial and competitive risks and also generated related challenges for the Vatican. One pope has already resigned under pressure, the first to do so in almost 600 years. Many tough questions, rarely asked earlier, are now proliferating rapidly and are being raised constantly and publicly. The days of popes on pedestals are over permanently, notwithstanding the rapid acceleration of Pope Francis’ new pope saint making spree as part of his crisis response.
  91. Will Pope Francis be next to resign under similar pressure? Who will succeed him? How many Vatican officials are now being investigated by outside government prosecutors? Could the Vatican financially go broke, as over a dozen US dioceses and religious orders already have, under the weight of rising scandal related legal costs and declining donations and subsidies? Will even more Catholics now leave the Church seeking greener pastures and truer shepherds?
  92. Until recently, the Vatican’s decades’ old strategy aimed simultaneously and defensively at protection and preservation. Protecting, as the Vatican’s highest priority, its top leaders from governmental legal accountability, has meant employing media management tactics with help, it appears from billionaire media masters and seeking opportunistic arrangements with powerful political leaders and wealthy financial barons.
  93. Preserving Vatican wealth and membership statistics, both to maximize its eroding income worldwide and to reverse declining Catholic birth and retention rates in key countries, has meant continuing to pursue a “pro billionaire” fundraising approach and a “pro-pregnancy” population policy. This population policy had been earlier declared in Pope Pius XI’s 1930 anti-birth control papal encyclical occasioned by both the rising threat of atheistic Soviet communism against a declining Western European birthrate and the military ambitions of Pius XI’s key protector, Mussolini. Today, the Vatican’s pro-baby policy appears directed at the Vatican’s near obsession with the threat of radical Islam and Muslims’ high birth rate.
  94. The Vatican’s defensive instruments of power currently include (A) endlessly quoting in Vatican public relations releases from Jesus’ appealing message of brotherly love, while avoiding the message too often in actual Vatican actions,  (B) constantly fronting a smiling  “semi-divine infallible pope”, preferably hugging babies, (C) shrewdly managing a self interested, obedient and self perpetuating hierarchy, (D) carefully applying its significant worldwide wealth advantage,  and (E) tightly controlling its considerable political influence in key countries, like the USA and Germany.
  95. The major current Church challenges, on top of the present scandal crisis, are:
  96. (A) A leadership challenge — diminishing papal authority and declining adherents, as millions of older Catholics are leaving the Church, many due the Vatican’s rigid sexual policies and its mismanagement of the scandals, while many younger Catholics are similarly disaffected and are increasingly marrying in non-Church ceremonies, are having and baptizing fewer Catholic babies, and are even avoiding or deferring the early introduction of their children to the Church’s formative indoctrination process associated with First Communion/First Confession;
  97. (B) A political challenge — to the Vatican’s modern immunity from outside governmental oversight and to the Vatican’s opportunistic arrangements with plutocratic political promoters ;
  98. (C) A financial challenge — declining personal donations and governmental subsidies while facing unending legal expenses and litigation penalties — fewer Catholics are donating, while billions in scandal related expenses are still being incurred, as more dioceses go broke and bankrupt and more Churches and schools are closed and sold off; and
  99. (D) A competitive challenge — increasing competition from other faiths and from secularism, ranging from Christian pentecostals, to Islamic converts, to the growing category of “nones”, unaffiliated with any faith group.
  100. Many of the world’s billion Catholics worry increasingly about the future of their scandal infected Church. While many millions still support the Catholic Church devoutly, millions of others, including women, children, poor couples, divorced and remarried, gay folks and even non-Catholics, suffer under Vatican policies that often seem unchristian and unnecessary.
  101. Pope Francis must currently confront this crisis and these challenges. He needs a comprehensive strategy to do so. His individual actions cannot really be assessed adequately or intelligently, except in the context of his overall strategy.
  102. Strategic Alternatives Presently Available to the Vatican: Pope Francis has given many Catholics new hope for a Church cure, for positive changes and for overdue reforms. Recent developments make clear that major changes for the papal monarchy are underway and that more are coming. When and how the newest changes may come surely raise complicated questions that demand responses, even if “final answers” are yet unavailable.
  103. Some Catholic Church changes may come voluntarily and others involuntarily, but come soon they will to the current papal monarchy, as they long ago came to other European monarchies. Depending on the specific change, either voluntary consensus among many Catholics or involuntary coercion from outside governments (as has already occurred in the financial area), or both, are driving these changes relentlessly. As a Catholic, I hope the changes come voluntarily. As an international lawyer, I expect the major changes will come involuntarily in any event, if needed voluntary changes are not implemented soon.
  104. Of course. the Church’s future options necessarily depend on, and are limited by, its present situation, as influenced by its unique history and traditions. Pope Francis cannot start afresh. He also faces considerable opposition from many sides. In some respects, Pope Francis’ situation today is like that of Pope Pius IX, who lost his large Papal States’ kingdom a century and a half ago to outside Italian governmental forces. Pius XI tried to recover some lost power by being “declared infallible” at the 1870 First Vatican Council. That move, however, may have created more problems for the Church than it solved.
  105. Pope Francis appears similarly desperately to be trying, with recent papal saint making spectacles and his Synods of Bishops, to make changes to try to head off some of the likely changes he may anticipate being imposed on the Church by escalating outside government pressure. His fine tuning the rules recently on his power to remove bishops suggests he does not plan on endless debates with the likes of Cardinal Burke.
  106. Moreover, Pope Francis must try to follow Jesus’ message closely if he wants to succeed. But traditions about Jesus, especially the all important “Good News” of the four Gospels, have been interpreted in different ways, prophetically, theologically and even politically, by earlier Catholic leaders and thinkers. These influential leaders and thinkers and their specific interpretations have generally dominated Church dogma and practice over much of its 2,000 year history, often in unpredictable ways at times with unanticipated consequences.
  107. For much of this long period, popes benefited from considerable protection from powerful monarchs, and at times even tyrants. But this has generally no longer been the case since the end of Fascist hegemony in Germany and Italy by 1945. Since then, the Vatican has had to nimbly weave its web of political protection by trading Vatican support on an ad hoc opportunistic basis for national arrangements. These alliances ranged from close ties since the 1980′s with elected US Republican leaders to alliances with military dictators in Latin America and Africa.
  108. Importantly, the Bible, including the Catholic New Testament, has a complex and complicated origin and multiple textual, linguistic, and cultural sources. It is now well known by scholars that the Bible is no straightforward guidebook on many modern problems. Early Church history also is poorly documented, quite diverse and easily manipulated by selective sourcing and quotations.
  109. Indeed, millions of words have been written by modern biblical and church history scholars. Nevertheless, in recent years, there has frequently been greater rather than less uncertainty about some important aspects of Jesus’ reported words and deeds and about some of his “clear mandates”, than had sometimes been assumed as beyond question by earlier popes. “The Tradition is …”, is at times much more complicated than modern popes have sometimes suggested in their encyclicals and the Catechism.
  110. The Vatican’s Current Strategy and Strategic Assumptions: Modern popes, including Francis, in their key dogmatic and moral pronouncements and proclaimed pastoral policies and practices, rely on many assumptions, occasionally unstated ones, sometimes selectively derived from preferred “in house” Catholic scholarship on scripture, history and theology. There are several assumptions in essential areas that are less certain than at times presented by self interested Vatican officials and their opportunistic apologists.
  111. These assumptions are a major part of the foundation for the Vatican’s claims about the Church’s (A) origins and sources, including some key New Testament mandates, (B) structure, leadership and management, and (C) dogma and practice. On closer inspection, these assumptions are more doubtful than modern popes, including Pope Francis, have at times indicated and the propositions popes construct on these assumptions are often more uncertain than not.
  112. By acknowledging these uncertainties now, some “unchangeable” dogmas and practices at variance with the lived experiences and informed consciences of hundreds of millions of Catholics can, and will be, changed voluntarily or involuntarily by the Vatican, to conform truthfully and honestly to Catholics’ current knowledge of, and daily experience, with reality. These truthful acknowledgements are often, as well, an essential prerequisite for the Vatican to survive the crisis and challenges it must face to survive.
  113. The Vatican can no longer avoid addressing the current relentless questioning of some of its key assumptions, given the growth in the Catholic scholarship community beyond Vatican control, as well as the 24/7 media coverage and Internet revelations that at times undercut Vatican positions. And future papal pronouncements, without ample underlying independent scholarly support, are hardly going to influence many Catholics for long. The Vatican can no longer address modern day “Galileos” solely by placing them under house arrest.
  114. Acknowledging honestly the uncertainty of the Vatican’s assumptions is fundamentally important, and also provides additional reasons to hope that positive changes in Church structure and doctrines are likely in the near term. If, as Jesus reportedly said, the truth makes us free, it is  mandatory that the Church’s options for change henceforth be pursued based honestly on truthful assumptions, and not opportunistically on “selective truths”, as at times still occurs and has also occurred in the past.
  115. Pope Francis had as a young Jesuit provincial in Argentina direct experience with the outside government power of a military dictatorship. He understands well that the Vatican he inherited from the ex-Pope was and remains in several areas, especially priest child abuse, on a collision course with outside governments armed with a coercive rule of international law. Longtime Vatican players, that had been accustomed until recently to living in a Vatican bubble in an Italy run by a seemingly billionaire swinger, do not yet seem to understand, as Francis appears to, that the days of “The Holy Father says … ” are over. Francis appears to know that either the Vatican reforms itself now or it risks being forced soon to reform, with the chaos and divisions that forced reforms would likely entail.
  116. These assumptions, in varying degrees, have shaped much of the Catholic Church’s present. They will also influence significantly its future, no matter what Pope Francis decides to do. Understanding better these often unstated assumptions creates hopeful opportunities for adopting long overdue positive reforms by eliminating non-essential and questionable “certainties” that at times have been impediments to needed changes.
  117. The overarching Vatican “framework” at present, based on current Vatican assumptions, appears to be mainly that (A) Jesus endorsed popes as supreme papal monarchs, (B) who are accountable only to God, (C) who uniquely interpret infallibly matters of “faith and morals”, including New Testament moral themes, and (D) who appoint as unaccountable bishops superior men, exclusively, (E) to implement and enforce unchangeable dogmas and practices mandated by popes. The Vatican currently, in effect, requires a billion plus Catholics to operate within this framework as well. This framework does not stand up well to close scholarly scrutiny.
  118. Complicating Pope Francis’ difficult tasks are many opportunists, including several very wealthy and powerful Church donors, who appear to be seeking, for their own personal agendas, to exploit the considerable “spiritual power” possessed by the modern papacy and to benefit from the political prestige and financial assets that popes control. For more than the last three quarters of the Catholic Church’s  2,000 year history, popes have at times been important “players”, sometimes a major player, in the international political economy; hence, the age old objective of wealthy donors to influence both papal decision making and wealth management.
  119. These opportunistic donors at times rely implicitly and selectively on several present weak papal assumptions, as do many in the Catholic hierarchy of cardinals and bishops. Of course, some of these Catholic religious leaders, with over 1,500 year years of accumulated political and economic traditions behind them, often also share some of their wealthy donors’ primary goals of maximizing their personal wealth, while also minimizing their individual accountability.
  120. Neither Pope Francis, nor any of his potential successors, can make many of the needed positive changes, without at a minimum revising key elements of his weak assumptions. Pope Francis and his successors, of course, may be unwilling voluntarily to make these revisions. That may matter significantly for the 0.01% minority leadership who may then not survive. It may not matter much, however, to the 99.9% faithful majority, who may still get to see these reforms imposed on the leadership majority by outside governments.
  121. The current likelihood is that Francis or his successor will, nevertheless, be compelled soon enough to make many of these changes, by pressure from outside governments accountable to their constituents, many of whom are Catholic. This is not the 1960′s, with the Second Vatican Council, when a collusive Vatican bureaucracy and their selected popes can stymie for a half century needed reforms agreed to by almost all of the world’s bishops at the Council.
  122. European governments are already beginning to apply considerable pressure in the financial area with mandated reforms for the Vatican Bank and the Vatican’s own asset management operation. This pressure has included so far a Vatican Bank asset seizure, a Vatican City credit card facility freeze and criminal investigations, even an arrest of a key Vatican financial official by the Italian government. The Vatican has been, in effect, required to hire some of the world’s most influential and expensive financial and banking consultants, lawyers and auditors and that may still not be enough to keep all Vatican officials out of prosecutors’ reach.

123. While Francis bobs and weaves and seeks political allies like anti-gay American fundamentalists, Catholics need to cover their bets by continuing to press their leaders, including President Obama to act. Papal promises of change are no longer a safe bet without concrete papal actions fulfilling the promises. Insufficient papal action to date suggests a need for more caution and prudence, and less cheerleading and wishful thinking.

 

Bishops investigating US nuns have poor records on sex abuse cases


Bishops investigating US nuns have poor records on sex abuse cases

By  | 

From the link: http://ncronline.org/news/women-religious/bishops-investigating-us-nuns-have-poor-records-sex-abuse-cases#.UXwI06Wxrjg.facebook

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles, a joint reporting project by NCR and GlobalPost.com, examining the background and the principle players in the Vatican’s investigations of U.S. women religious.

From its palace in Vatican City, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith monitors compliance with Roman Catholic moral teaching and matters of dogma for the oldest church in Christendom.

These issues have little bearing on most of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. Faith, for them, rests in parish life and the quality of their pastors. In the 1980s, for example, when the congregation punished theologians who dissented from the papal ban on artificial birth control, the majority of Catholics who believe contraception is morally acceptable did not change their opinion.

But as the congregation accelerates a disciplinary action against the main leadership group of American nuns, many sisters and priests are reacting to a climate of fear fostered by bishops and cardinals who have never been investigated for their role in the greatest moral crisis of modern Catholicism: the clergy sex abuse crisis.

A small but resonant chorus of critics is raising an issue of a hypocrisy that has grown too blatant to ignore. The same hierarchy that brought shame upon the Vatican for recycling clergy child molesters, a scandal that rocked the church in many countries, has assumed a moral high ground in punishing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a group whose members have put their lives on the line in taking the social justice agenda of the Second Vatican Council to some of the poorest areas in the world.

Many nuns from foreign countries wonder if the investigation is an exercise “in displaced anger,” as one sister puts it, over the hierarchy’s failure in child abuse scandals across the map of the global church.

Cardinals and bishops involved in the LCWR investigation have suffered no discipline for their blunders in handling clergy pedophiles, according to news reports and legal documents.

Cardinal Bernard Law was the prime mover behind the “apostolic visitation” of all American nun communities, other than monastic ones, and the subsequent doctrinal investigation of LCWR, according to sources in Rome, including Cardinal Franc Rodé, retired prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Law, who refused to comment for this article, has not spoken to the press in 10 years. He resigned as Boston archbishop in December 2002 and spent 18 months living at a convent of nuns in Maryland, with periodic trips to Rome. In 2004, the Vatican rewarded him with a position as prefect of Santa Maria Maggiore, a historic basilica; he took an active role in several Roman Curia boards, and became a fixture on the social circuit of embassies in Rome.

Boston was a staggering mess. Settlements and other expenditures related to abuse cases there have cost about $170 million. Mass attendance since 2002 has dropped to 16 percent. Declining financial support has caused a storm of church closings, from nearly 400 parishes in 2002 to 288 today (soon to be organized into 135 “parish collaboratives”).

Six years after Law found redemption in Rome, clergy abuse cases exploded in Europe.

“You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry,” Pope Benedict XVI wrote to Catholics of Ireland in a letter on March 19, 2010, as the Irish reeled from a government report on a history of bishops concealing clergy predators. “Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated,” the pope continued.

“You find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel. At the same time, I ask you not to lose hope.”

Despite the uncommon tone of contrition, the pope’s letter offered no procedures to remove complicit bishops or genuine institutional reform.

On April 6, 2010, as cases of clergy abuse in other countries shook the European heartland, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel criticized Benedict for “reluctance to take a firm stance” on the abuse a crisis, which “is now descending upon the Vatican with a vengeance and hitting its spiritual leader hard.”

Almost three years later, the drumbeat of criticism has subsided, but the core problem is unchanged. Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Mo., remains in his office despite his conviction in criminal court, where he drew a suspended sentence for failure to report suspected sexual abuse of children. Benedict has not punished any of the hierarchs who recycled so many sex offenders by sending them to other parishes.

Under the logic of apostolic succession, which sees each bishop as a descendant of Jesus’ apostles, the power structure gives de facto immunity to cardinals and bishops for just about any wrongdoing that doesn’t bring a prison sentence. The double standard in church governance — with the men of the hierarchy immune from church justice — has become a glaring issue to leaders of missionary orders in Rome as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith probes the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

In 2005, shortly after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger emerged from the conclave as Pope Benedict XVI, he appointed San Francisco Archbishop William Levada to succeed him as prefect of the doctrinal congregation. Levada became a cardinal soon after.

Levada was caught in a swamp in 2002 amid news reports on abuse cases under his watch in San Francisco. He formed an Independent Review Board of primarily laypeople to advise him and review personnel files on questionable priests. Psychologist James Jenkins chaired the board. Fr. Greg Ingels, a canon lawyer, helped set it up. Jenkins grew suspicious when Levada would not release the names of priests under scrutiny.

In May 2003, board members were stunned to read news reports that Ingels had been indicted for allegedly having oral sex with a 15-year-old boy at a local high school in the 1970s. Levada, the board learned, had known about the allegations since 1996, yet kept Ingels in ministry and as an adviser. Ingels helped fashion the church’s 2002 zero-tolerance policy and wrote a bishops’ guidebook on how to handle abuse cases. Ingels stepped down.

Jenkins quit his post, denouncing Levada for “an elaborate public relations scheme.”

Levada was sued for defamation by a priest he pulled from a parish for blowing the whistle on another priest. In 1997, Fr. John Conley told police that the pastor with whom he served made advances on a teenage boy. Levada yanked Conley from ministry; Conley, a former assistant U.S. attorney, sued. After the accused priest owned up in a civil case, which paid the victim’s family $750,000, the archdiocese paid Conley in 2002 a six-figure “pre-retirement” settlement before the suit went to trial.

Robert Mickens reported in The Tablet, a London-based Catholic weekly, in May 2012 that Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, a protégé of Law’s, asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to investigate LCWR.

Lori established several communities of traditionalist nuns as bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., between 2001 and 2012.

As a canon lawyer, Lori helped write the U.S. bishops’ 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. It has no oversight over bishops. In 2003, Lori approved a $21 million abuse victims’ settlement involving several priests. The lay group Voice of the Faithful criticized him for allowing an accused monsignor to stay in his parish. In 2011 the priest resigned after a female church worker made sexual harassment allegations.

In a Jan. 12, 2011, Connecticut Post op-ed piece, Voice of the Faithful leader John Marshall Lee cited a priest who had been suspended for sex abuse yet appeared in clerical attire at public gatherings.

“Does this behavior contradict Bishop Lori’s assumed supervisory orders suspending priestly public activities?” Lee asked. “How does a bishop enforce his instructions in this regard? Where does a whistleblower report this behavior, or determine if the priest in question was suspended in the first place?”

Lee cited another cleric who had been removed after “credible allegations of sexual abuse” but with no indication that he was defrocked.

“There is no current address for this man who might have been labeled ‘sex offender’ (had the church acted responsibly when leaders first heard of adult criminal behavior perpetrated on Catholic children) and who may continue to be a potential threat to children,” Lee said. “Is the church saying that such men are no longer a public threat to children?”

Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, who wrote the secret report on LCWR for Levada, has said he got most of his information from LCWR literature. Writing in his diocesan paper, Blair made the accurate point that several speakers at LCWR conferences have taken positions, such as ordaining women, that are contrary to church teaching.

Does this mean that the ordination of women is a new form of heresy? If the truth of the church is defined by men who have violated basic moral standards in disregarding the rights of children and their families, how does their behavior meet the sensus fidelium, or sense of the faithful, extolled by the Second Vatican Council?

Blair’s own background spotlights a double standard that rewards bishops who scandalize laypeople.

In 2004, the priest who had headed the Toledo diocese’s 2001-2002 $60 million capital campaign was accused by two men of having abused them as boys many years before. Blair kept Fr. Robert Yeager as the diocese’s planned giving consultant, and until Yeager’s retirement in July 2005, the priest continued to solicit donations while an attorney negotiated settlements for the victims. The bishop removed Yeager from ministry in 2006, before the settlements made news.

Blair forcibly retired a veteran pastor who criticized the bishop’s parish closures as “high-handed decisions with almost no collaboration with anyone.” In one parish Blair installed a priest who had had a long relationship with a woman. When the parishioners found out, Blair reassigned the priest. A spokesperson said the bishop had to keep quiet as the priest had told him in confession.

In 2005, parishioners in the farm belt town of Kansas, Ohio, filed a Vatican appeal when Blair closed St. James Parish. It failed. They filed suit to save the parish in county court, arguing that the bishop was only one trustee but parishioners owned the property. The state sided with the bishop. “We spent $100,000 in legal fees,” said parishioner Virginia Hull. “Bishop Blair paid his lawyers with $77,957 from our parish account.” Blair had the church demolished.

Blair, Lori and Levada became bishops with help from Law, whose influence at the Vatican as a member of Congregation for Bishops is pivotal in selecting new American priests for the hierarchy.

Along with Blair, the second member of the three-man committee now supervising LCWR is Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill. In a 2007 homily in Grand Rapids, Mich., for the Red Mass, an annual liturgy for lawyers and judges, Paprocki, who has degrees in civil and canon law, declared, “The law is being used as an instrument of attack on the church. This was true from the earliest times when the earliest Christians were, in effect, outlaws in the Roman Empire for refusing to worship the official state gods.”

He saw clergy abuse lawsuits were undermining the church’s religious freedom. “This attack is particularly directed against bishops and priests, since the most effective way to scatter the flock is to attack the shepherd,” he insisted.

“The principal force behind these attacks is none other than the devil,” he said.

Equating the devil with lawyers seeking financial compensation for victims of child sexual abuse drew heavy criticism.

In a 2010 homily, Paprocki took a rhetorical back step, saying, “Apparently I did not make myself clear that it is the sins of priests and bishops who succumbed to the temptations of the devil that have put their victims and the Catholic community in this horrible situation in the first place.”

In a column for his diocesan newspaper before the November election, Paprocki attacked the Democratic Party platform for its support of legal abortion and same-sex marriage.

Without endorsing Mitt Romney outright, he wrote, “A vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your soul in serious jeopardy.”

Did bishops who sent child molesters from parish to parish, on to fresh victims, without warning parishioners, promote “actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil”? Does apostolic succession absolve them of all wrongdoing?

Bishops gain stature in the estimation of cardinals and popes by proving their loyalty. A chief way to do that is by serving as an investigator of priests or nuns who run afoul of the hierarchy as threats to the moral teaching upheld by bishops, regardless of what the bishops have done.

Leading the Vatican’s supervision of LCWR, the doctrinal congregation delegated Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle to ensure that the nuns’ leadership group conforms to changes the Vatican wants.

Sartain was previously the bishop of Joliet, Ill., a diocese that was wracked with abuse cover-ups and lawsuits under his predecessor.

In spring of 2009, a Joliet seminarian, Alejandro Flores, was caught with pornographic pictures of youths, some of which appeared to be of underage boys. No criminal charges were filed.

Sartain ordained Flores three months later, in June 2009. Then in January 2010, Flores was arrested for molesting a boy. He pleaded guilty in September 2010, the same month that Benedict promoted Sartain to archbishop of Seattle.

Next: a report on issues of property owned by women religious in which the Vatican investigation has taken interest

[Jason Berry, author of Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, writes from New Orleans. Research for this series has been funded by a Knight Grant for Reporting on Religion and American Public Life at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism; the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting; and the Fund for Investigative Journalism.]

Pope Put Off Punishing Abusive Priest


Pope Put Off Punishing Abusive Priest

from the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/10/world/europe/10pope.html?_r=0

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN and MICHAEL LUO
Published: April 9, 2010

The priest, convicted of tying up and abusing two young boys in a California church rectory, wanted to leave the ministry.

But in 1985, four years after the priest and his bishop first asked that he be defrocked, the future Pope Benedict XVI, then a top Vatican official, signed a letter saying that the case needed more time and that “the good of the Universal Church” had to be considered in the final decision, according to church documents released through lawsuits.

That decision did not come for two more years, the sort of delay that is fueling a renewed sexual abuse scandal in the church that has focused on whether the future pope moved quickly enough to remove known pedophiles from the priesthood, despite pleas from American bishops.

As the scandal has deepened, the pope’s defenders have said that, well before he was elected pope in 2005, he grew ever more concerned about sexual abuse and weeding out pedophile priests. But the case of the California priest, the Rev. Stephen Kiesle, and the trail of documents first reported on Friday by The Associated Press, shows, in this period at least, little urgency.

The letter that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later pope, wrote in Latin in 1985, mentions Father Kiesle’s young age — 38 at the time — as one consideration in whether  he should be forced from the priesthood. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said it was wrong to draw conclusions based on one letter, without carefully understanding the context in which it was written.

“It’s evident that it’s not an in-depth and serious use of documents,” he said. Earlier Friday, Father Lombardi suggested that the pope would be willing to meet with sexual abuse victims.

But John S. Cummins, the former bishop of Oakland who repeatedly wrote his superiors in Rome urging that the priest be defrocked, said the Vatican in that era, after the Second Vatican Council, was especially reluctant to dismiss priests because so many were abandoning the priesthood.

As a result, he said, Pope John Paul II “really slowed down the process and made it much more deliberate.”

The letters and memos, released to The New York Times by Jeff Anderson, a co-counsel representing some of the priests’ victims, reveal a rising level of exasperation among  church officials in Oakland about the delays from the Vatican.

Bishop Cummins wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger in February 1982: “It is my conviction that there would be no scandal if this petition were granted and that as a matter of fact, given the nature of the case, there might be greater scandal to the community if Father Kiesle were allowed to return to the active ministry.”

In late 1981 Cardinal Ratzinger had just been appointed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the church’s doctrinal office. This office was supposed to handle abuse cases only when they were considered violations of the sacrament of Confession, before the policies were clarified in 2001 and the doctrinal office took on all the abuse cases. (It is unclear why the doctrinal office was handling the case of Mr. Kiesle in the 1980s).

Bishop Cummins had first petitioned the doctrinal office to defrock Mr. Kiesle in 1981. He also wrote directly to Pope John Paul II. Cardinal Ratzinger  requested more information, which officials in the Oakland Diocese supplied in February 1982. They did not hear back from Cardinal Ratzinger until 1985, when he sent the letter in Latin suggesting that his office needed more time to evaluate the case.

The Rev. George Mockel, a diocesan official in Oakland, wrote in a memo to Bishop Cummins: “Basically they are going to sit on it until Steve gets quite a bit older. My own feeling is that this is unfortunate.”

Mr. Kiesle was finally defrocked in 1987.

Mr. Kiesle was convicted for the first time of child molesting in 1978, just six years after he was ordained. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of lewd conduct while he was a pastor at Our Lady of the Rosary in Union City, Calif.

Mike Brown, a spokesman for the Oakland Diocese, said that after Mr. Kiesle was convicted, the diocese withdrew permission for him to work as a minister. Mr. Kiesle served three years’ probation for his misdemeanor and underwent treatment, enabling him to eventually get his record wiped clean.

In 1985, while the bishop in Oakland was pressing Cardinal Ratzinger to defrock Mr. Kiesle, the priest began volunteering in the youth ministry at one of his former parishes, St. Joseph’s in Pinole, Calif., news reports say.

Maurine Behrend, a former employee in the diocese’s youth ministry office, recalled encountering Mr. Kiesle at a Youth Day in April 1988 and learning from another minister that Mr. Kiesle had been convicted of molestation. Ms. Behrend alerted the head of the youth ministry office and personally warned Bishop Cummins two weeks later.

In May 1988, she wrote an outraged letter to a church official, demanding to know why “a convicted child molester is currently the youth ministry coordinator at St. Joseph’s parish in Pinole.”

Bishop Cummins, who is now 82, contested news reports that Mr. Kiesle was volunteering at his old parish for three years, saying diocesan officials would have heard and acted earlier. Bishop Cummins did not recall ever being alerted, despite Ms. Behrend’s irate letter.

Bishop Cummins said Mr. Kiesle was finally removed from his volunteer position when the bishop happened to bump into him at a child’s confirmation ceremony at the parish. The next day, the bishop said he made sure Mr. Kiesle was banned from working at the parish.

In 2002, Mr. Kiesle was charged in several cases of molestation, including abusing at least a half-dozen young girls while at his former parishes in the 1960s and 1970s. But those charges had to be dropped when the United States Supreme Court struck down a California law that extended the statute of limitations on child molestation cases.

He eventually pleaded no contest in 2004 to a separate felony charge of molesting a child at his vacation home in Truckee, Calif., in 1995 and was sentenced to six years in prison.

Rick Simons, an attorney in Hayward, Calif., who represented two of the victims who later sued the Diocese of Oakland, said he met Father Kiesle when he took his deposition in prison.

“Of all the priests who abused children that I have met, and there’s probably a couple dozen, he was by far the most evil, remorseless sociopath of the lot,” he said.

Mr. Kiesle was released, and is listed in California’s sex offenders registry as living in Walnut Creek, Ca. He lives in a gated community, where guards on Friday prevented a reporter from approaching his home.

Mr. Simons said that about eight victims of Mr. Kiesle reached a settlement with the Diocese of Oakland in 2005, and that on average each received about $1 million to $1.5 million.

 

Vatican: A New Child Protection Strategy Now?


Vatican: A New Child Protection Strategy Now?

by Jerry Slevin, retired Wall Street lawyer

from the link: http://christiancatholicism.com/vatican-a-new-child-protection-strategy-now-by-jerry-slevin-retired-wall-street-lawyer/

WHERE DOES THE VATICAN NOW STAND?

Major new political developments worldwide affecting the Vatican may quickly lead to long overdue changes in its flawed child protection strategy. Two important and informed Cardinals, Martini and Pell, one a former, and the other a present, rumored contender to be elected pope, surprisingly and publicly admitted recently, reportedly, that the Catholic Church’s decades’ old priest child abuse scandal had still not been resolved and would continue to harm the Church, and presumably more innocent children and suffering survivors as well, unless reforms were effected.

Cardinal Martini, who died in September and had been a highly regarded Jesuit scriptural scholar and a very popular head of Italy’s largest diocese, Milan, also noted in August as part of his final description of the Vatican’s strategic failure to protect children sufficiently, that ” … the church bureaucracy rises up …”, clearly pointing his finger at the secretive and powerful Vatican administrative clique within Pope Benedict XVI’s administration, also called the Curia.

The new shocking announcement that one of Cardinal Law’s former Boston canon lawyers is to be the new Vatican prosecutor on priest child abuse cases just reinforces these Cardinals’ recent negative assessments of the Vatican’s current flawed strategy. Cardinal Law fled to the Vatican in 2004 apparently to escape the fallout from the explosive 2002 Boston Archdiocesan priest child abuse revelations. Cardinal Law’s former subordinate replaces the Vatican’s chief prosecutor, who was recently “promoted out” to Malta following his “bombshell” public statement confirming the harmful influence of a pervasive Vatican code of silence, or in Mafia terminology, “Omerta”, on child abuse matters.

Also surprisingly, in one fateful and unprecedented week last month, Catholic laity concerned about children in different parts of the world directly rejected clear Vatican signals by supporting the re-election of President Barack Obama in the USA, and the establishment of a special national child sexual abuse investigation commission by Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Australia. And now the Philippine legislature has just approved a very popular law to make contraception affordably accessible there, despite strong Vatican opposition.

The Vatican’s long time significant worldwide political influence over Catholic voters has already likely ended. External pressures are now mounting for real Vatican reforms. There is set out below a summary of the considerations favoring these major reforms, as I now see them in light on my experience as a Wall Street lawyer over several decades advising up close senior executives in multinational organizations, as well as from my perspective as a grandparent and lifelong Catholic.

If you understand these considerations, you will realize reforms are not only possible, but almost inevitable as more external pressure builds on the Vatican. It seems clear to me as an experienced lawyer observing the Vatican’s continuing evasive behavior, often masked by religious rhetoric, that reforms to the flawed child protection strategy will happen mainly and probably soon as a result of subjecting the Vatican to the modern rule of law mandated by constitutional democracies, such as Australia, the USA and Ireland. You can make a difference in influencing how soon the reforms are made by supporting the application of the rule of U.S. law to the Vatican by clicking on and signing the petition to President Obama accessible at

http://wh.gov/5aAQ

Please avoid being distracted by the seemingly unending “mystical smokescreens” about papal “tweets”, papal saint-making, papal books, even about the papal butler and the other obvious papal rhetorical ploys that Pope Benedict XVI’s well funded Vatican media team, now headed by an ex-FOX News reporter, spins out on an almost daily basis. Disappointingly, some Vatican based media reporters apparently under deadlines and beholden at times to their onoing sources too often just rehash this typical trivia, instead of either pressing their sources on the really important questions or thinking through the real significance of the dissembling and corruption they see with their own eyes, as the butler has recently confirmed to the world at great personal risk. Apparently, it took a simple, but brave, butler just to get much of the international media to pay close attention, for awhile at least. Now the butler’s fate has been decided, while the corruption he sought to expose apparently goes on seemingly unabated and too often unchallenged by the world’s media.

PLEASE CLICK on to the above link and read and sign the short online petition. It calls on President Obama to promptly establish a U.S. national investigation commission comparable to Australia’s. All of the good reasons for establishing the commission in Australia apply here in the USA as well. There are no good reasons for President Obama not to set up the commission in the USA soon. He has repeatedly acknowledged the need to protect children from violence and abuse. You need to take this unique opportunity to encourage him to act decisively now by your signing this petition promptly; otherwise the petition may be disregarded for insufficient public interest.

PLEASE SIGN the above petition. Please encourage personally and by social media others, including family, friends, neighbors and fellow believers and non-believers, everyone who values children, to sign it also. Anyone 13 years or older can sign it.

PLEASE SHARE and circulate also my broad statement here, POST the full statement or portions thereof on your website and/or INSERT a link to this statement in current and future relevant comments you may make on other websites, as you judge appropriate. This hopeful message of potential reforms needs to get out to make sure the reforms occur.

The major national Catholic social justice movement, Call To Action, has just publicly begun to promote the above petition. Other groups, like the Childrens’ Defense Fund, the Voice of the Faithful, the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and the Association of the Rights of Catholics in the Church, are also being encouraged to support the petition publicly in the near future. SNAP reportedly appears to support strongly the establishment of the Australian commission, but seems puzzlingly silent so far on encouraging President Obama to establish a comparable U.S. commission.

President Obama and several key members of his Administration, including his Chief of Staff, his Defense Secretary and his Attorney General, have already indicated recently they are taking some actions to stop the sexual abuse of children, especially in organizational settings. Now President Obama must take the lead on a comprehensive approach. As President, he already has full authority to establish this investigation commission without becoming enmeshed in the inevitable delays of seeking action from a divided Congress.

The rapes of young children secretly in a dark church by a heartless priest they were taught to trust are usually kept hidden for years and understandably get much less media attention than the senseless slaughter of children by a clearly deranged and insanely armed young man openly in a Newtown school he unexpectedly invaded; but they are all horrific and preventable evils for each of the young victims of these unspeakable crimes, for their loved ones and for everyone who cares about children. We must do all we can to curtail all violence against children, sexual as well as gun violence. We clearly have not done enough. You can help by signing the above petition. Please take a minute now and do so.

Will these major political setbacks worldwide for long standing Vatican policies result in changes in the failing papal strategy for protecting children from sexual abuse by priests and other Church agents? What exactly is the current flawed papal strategy? How was the current flawed strategy developed? Will these strategic political failures affect the election of the next pope expected by many to be occurring soon? Will the democratically elected and constitutionally controlled “Throne” now compel the Vatican to clean up the badly soiled and papally controlled “Altar”?

To assess what the possibilities are for real Vatican change in the near term, it is necessary to consider briefly the historical and political contexts in which the Vatican’s present internal and external strategies have developed.

IS THE CONSTANTINIAN CAPTIVITY ABOUT TO END?

The Catholic Church progressed steadily for three centuries after Jesus’ death, with considerable theological diversity, independently from the Roman Emperors. Its originally decentralized Church organization generally prospered and expanded under consensually selected local Church leaders, including some women, despite occasional and mostly local Roman persecutions. The Catholic spiritual “Altar” and the Roman imperial “Throne” were originally separate. Individual Catholics had a meaningful say for over three centuries after Jesus on choosing their own Church leaders and on evaluating these leaders’ performance in office.

If you were to imagine “playing back the videotape” and interviewing Catholics living in the first three centuries, they would surely have been shocked and confounded to hear how Jesus’ simple message of loving God and neighbor that was shared at a common meal with fellow believers had been hijacked by a clique of opportunistic men in Vatican City to serve as the foundation of a too often seemingly profit-driven multinational organization that frequently appears to exist mainly to benefit these men and their obedient, subservient and well rewarded male bishops worldwide.

Following the proclamation of the powerful Roman Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Toleration in 313, the consensual Catholic Church the Apostles left behind was rapidly transformed in fundamental ways. Catholics still bear the brunt of some of the adverse aspects of this transformation by force, but that may be about to change. The Roman Emperors and their monarchical successors from Constantine on, in effect, frequently commandeered the Catholic Church, installing a coercive imperial-style hierarchical structure that operated top-down with “good” and “bad” popes for much of the subsequent 1,700 years up until the present, even through the 16th Century Reformation.

A new theological “orthodoxy” was often enforced during this period by imperial force, Church councils were called and influenced by emperors and monarchs and a canonical list of some disparate earlier writings to be included in the New Testament was effectively pressed. The “Altar” and the “Throne” were in a relatively short period generally merged under imperial pressure. Some of these merged elements have remained dominant in the Catholic Church until now in varying degrees continuously, despite the disappearance of all of the Roman Emperors and their monarchical successors by the end of World War I in 1918.

As late as 1903, in the lifetime of a few persons yet still living, the last ruling successor of the Holy Roman Emperor vetoed a leading contender in the then pending papal election. Since 1918, significantly, voting Cardinals have been generally free of outside governmental political pressure in papal elections, further strengthening the residual “de facto” power over popes inherent in the voting bloc held by the large group of Vatican Cardinals. The Vatican administration for the past hundred years has generally operated in Vatican City free of both external political control and internal lay Catholic influence, with accountability to no one as a practical matter.

As an frequently unaccountable hierarchical organization, the Vatican administration during much of this 1,700 year period has spent considerable energy, internally, on struggles for power and control over Vatican wealth and prestige among competing hierarchs and, externally, on interacting politically and sometimes even militarily with competing imperial powers up until the pope’s large Italian kingdom, the Papal States, fell militarily in 1870 to Italian nationalists. This resulted, until the late 1920′s papal bargain with Italian fascist dictator, Mussolini, in the so-called self-imposed “papal imprisonment” of the Vatican administration on the 100+ acre “campus” in Rome called Vatican City. Significantly, Pope Benedict XVI was baptized and confirmed during the “reign” of a pope, Pius XI, who had himself been born and confirmed in the Papal States.

WILL THE VATICAN SOON CHANGE DUE TO INTERNAL PRESSURE?

From 1870 until the present, the rare efforts to replace this coercive hierarchical heritage and restore the Catholic Church’s original internal consensual structure, including at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), for example, by changing from a papal hierarchical vertical model to an episcopal collegial, power-sharing, horizontal model, have generally not succeeded. Consequently, internally the Vatican has continued to be controlled since 1870 mainly by a self-perpetuating Vatican leadership group, mostly Vatican based Cardinals.

Operating as a voting bloc, Vatican Cardinals usually have a decisive “de facto” veto vote on selecting new popes. This clique thereby often gets to select on their terms their “man” as pope and also as a consequence to control tightly worldwide Catholic Bishops and related worldwide Catholic wealth through this clique’s designated candidate.

Notwithstanding the papal butler’s recent valiant and thankless efforts to expose this Vatican clique, Vatican Cardinals will likely soon get to pick the next pope in the forthcoming papal election. “Vaticanista” reporters will try to earn their expensive Roman keep by writing their usual harmless “horse race” stories for docile Catholics worldwide, as “papabiles” strut their red dresses in parades featured on CNN and similar underinformed media outlets. Astute observers, however, will know that the winner will more than likely be pre-determined before the race even begins.

Several efforts of some “progressive” Catholic leaders and thinkers, like Pope Benedict XVI’s oldest living former colleague and a fearless best selling scholar, Fr. Hans Kung, to argue for internal structural reforms, citing as support the clear implications of some of the actual decrees of the Second Vatican Council overwhelmingly approved between 1962 and 1965 by the worldwide Catholic Church’s Cardinals and Bishops, have often been strongly resisted and sometimes just ignored by the Vatican dominant clique. The Vatican’s worldwide network of ambitious academic apologists, some of whom at times talk and behave as if the Second Vatican Council never occurred, often then just echo the evasions of their Roman masters. The Vatican clique’s aggressive and long standing intimidation efforts against alternative internal progressive voices have in the past usually limited the impact of these alternative voices among rank and file Catholics.

At present, these progressive reformers, despite the overwhelming evidence from Church history and the Second Vatican Council proceedings supporting their case for reform, have no effective appeal remedies. Significantly, however, many more Catholics are increasingly boldly rejecting the Vatican’s and its apologists’ contrived rhetoric, are listening to these stalwart scholars’ message and are poised to support long overdue Vatican internal reforms. The recent resistance shown by a majority of local Catholics to strong papal political pressure in the USA, Australia, the Philippines, Ireland and elsewhere demonstrates that these reformers’ influence is rapidly spreading.

Even now, the current dominant Vatican clique is purportedly subject only to the absolute rule of the 85 year Pope Benedict XVI, although his butler apparently was sceptical about the extent of the aging pope’s actual control, it appears. It is clear, in any event, that the dominant Vatican curial clique internally remains unaccountable either to the Catholic laity, to the various Catholic religious orders, to local Catholic priests or, it appears, even to most non-Roman Cardinals and Bishops, despite some of these Cardinals’ and Bishops’ being at considerable risk of possible criminal proceedings for implementing elements of the Vatican’s flawed child protection policies.

For example, Philadelphia’s recently deceased Cardinal Bevilacqua, in my legal judgment after following Philly events closely, likely only avoided prosecution earlier this year on account of his terminal illness. Meanwhile, his subordinate, Monsignor Lynn, who said repeatedly under oath at his criminal trial this year that he only followed his Cardinal’s orders, sits in prison for child endangerment. Lynn’s subsequent Philly boss, Cardinal Rigali, a long time member of the Vatican upper management team, still appears to be in some legal jeopardy. Cardinal Rigali incidentally had also served as mentor for Kansas City’s Bishop Finn, who pleaded guilty several months ago to a child endangerment related crime but still remains an active Bishop, and for New York’s Cardinal Dolan, who reportedly continues to be a key focus of ongoing legal proceedings related to alleged priest child abuse cover-up misdeeds in Milwaukee.

The Vatican’s recent worldwide political losses suggest it may soon become accountable to the democratically elected and constitutionally controlled “Throne” with its modern rule of law, initially at least with respect to the Vatican’s failures to protect sufficiently children from predatory priests and to operate the Vatican Bank transparently. This likely new accountability can be expected, in turn, to lead to changes soon thereafter in the Catholic Church’s hierarchical structure as well. Cardinals and Bishops worldwide would then likely resist more strongly having their legal and financial protections dictated and/or undercut by octogenarian Vatican overseers, who may be too old to face prosecution themselves and who too often seem incurably oblivious to everyday Catholics’ concerns. This is perhaps to be expected from octogenarians who have apparently spent too many years in the unaccountable and almost surreal Vatican bubble inherited from the Papal States and the Middle Ages before that.

Moreover, the new revelations likely to be forthcoming from the new Australian investigation commission, and the U.S. commission as well if President Obama establishes one as he ought to, can be expected to increase significantly the pressure from lay Catholics for more transparency and accountability from the Vatican administration, and from their local Bishops as well. Few Catholics have accepted the flawed Church funded “expert studies” that painted an overly rosy picture of current Church child protection strategy and relied mainly on uneven data that some suspect bishops may have volunteered to share with the well paid experts. In February last at a Vatican public conference, “Vatican invited experts” gave a conservative estimate of over 100,000 youthful victims to date of priest sexual abuse already in the USA alone and still counting. So much for the rosy “expert” studies!

These impending new revelations in turn will likely hit the Vatican administration hard where it often seems to matter to them most, in their pocketbook. More Catholics, many of whom to date still have difficulty facing up to the upsetting reality of priest sexual abuse of children, would likely decrease even further their financial contributions to the Church and its institutions. Moreover, many more of them would also likely object more strenuously to large governmental subsidies to Vatican dominated institutions, like hospitals and universities, that can be operated in most cases at least as effectively without the Vatican’s almost superfluous “product brand” plastered on them.

These Catholic institutions will also likely face additional public objections from their employees and others over the Vatican’s continuing cynical U.S. presidential election year ploy to deny these employees contraceptive health insurance to try to undercut President Obama and other Democrats with some Catholic voters. And, surely, even fewer young Catholics born in the U.S. will be interested in becoming priests, compounding the severe and growing shortage of U.S. born candidates that is contributing to many Church closures. Imported foreign seminarians and priests, however well intentioned, have not satisfactorily closed and cannot close this gap. Moreover, several dozen of these foreign priests have reportedly fled the USA after being accused of sexual misdeeds, usually involving minors.

Also, the HBO worldwide cable network’s airing in a few weeks of the new award winning documentary, “Mea Maxima Culpa”, about the alleged sexual abuse of over 200 deaf boys in Milwaukee by a single priest that was, in effect, covered-up for decades in Milwaukee and Rome, as well as the public release shortly of the Los Angeles Archdiocesan abuse files related to the $660 million Archdiocesan priest child abuse legal settlements, can both be expected to add considerably to the escalating public pressure for more Vatican transparency and accountability to the rule of law.

Moreover, the potential prosecution for child endangerment in the near term of some Cardinals and Bishops worldwide, a not unlikely scenario, would surely sweep away quickly many of the specious “traditional” arguments about the “immutability” of the current hierarchical structure of the “Vicar of Christ” and the “successors to the Apostles” and the related purported historical impossibility of making changes to the Catholic Church’s imperially mandated structure. Popes did a U-turn by prohibiting slavery after permitting it for centuries. Restoring the original consensual Church organizational structure in the Internet Age is scriptural, theologically and practically achievable and much more consistent with Jesus’ mandate that the “last shall be first” than the current hierarchical structure is.

As my high school chum, Rudy Guiliani, proved in challenging the Mafia as a brave Federal prosecutor, when the prosecutorial heat rises against an entrenched group, as is beginning to happen, prior precedents suggest it rapidly becomes “every man for himself”. Philly’s Monsignor Lynn recently learned this when reportedly Archbishop Chaput, likely with Cardinal Rigali’s concurrence, apparently underfunded the sums needed to pay Monsignor Lynn’s lawyers for a credible appeal of his conviction. Let all non-bishop clerics working for bishops note this well. They will likely be on their own if prosecuted!

WILL THE VATICAN SOON CHANGE DUE TO EXTERNAL PRESSURE?

In the Vatican’s external political relations since the late 1920′s, beginning with its relations with its early modern political allies, including “elected” fascist dictators, Mussolini, Hitler and Franco, then continuing through the 20th Century with the Vatican’s relations with (1) numerous Latin American, African and Asian leaders, also often “elected” dictators, (2) American presidents, especially right-wing Republican ones, beginning with President Reagan, and (3) these leaders’ wealthy plutocratic supporters, the Vatican’s policy has been customarily to “exchange” papal electoral support locally for specific national candidates in exchange (A) for governmental financial subsidies and special privileges for the local national Catholic Church and its controlled institutions and for donations from wealthy Catholic plutocrats, and (B) “de facto” legal protection for the Vatican administration from any significant application of the international rule of law to either the Vatican’s Roman or worldwide operations.

Shrewdly, this local papal electoral support has usually been “wrapped” in a country-specific wedge issue, as was just done, albeit very unsuccessfully, in the USA elections with the anti-contraception and anti-gay marriage issues. This basic, century-old Vatican external political strategy just failed spectacularly last month in the USA and Australia and this week in the Phillipines, raising now great pressure on the Vatican to changes its external strategy, which may very well trigger changes in internal strategy as well. It is becoming increasingly clearer, to me at least, that a key reason the Vatican clique pushes “sexual” and “gender” legal issues so strongly is that it gives them a “hook” for Catholic voters in national political campaigns, thereby creating electoral “value” for the Vatican to “trade” to political leaders and their wealthy plutocratic supporters in democracies with a significant bloc of Catholic voters.

ARE THE NEW PRESSURES ON THE VATICAN TO CHANGE STRATEGIES ENOUGH?

Will the Vatican change these strategies now? Could these strategies even be changed now as a new pope is apparently to be elected soon, probably pre-selected by the current powerful Vatican Cardinals with their effective veto voting bloc? And what if the Vatican fails to change these strategies? Will governmental investigations in Australia, Ireland, the USA, and likely many more countries soon effectively force the Vatican to change fundamentally under the threat of international law enforcement?

The Catholic Church is at a critical crossroad. Can the spiritual “Altar” and the papal “Throne” again be separated as they were fruitfully under the Apostles and for three centuries following? In theory, there is no valid reason why a decentralized Church free of political alliances could not be effective, indeed more effective, in the Internet Age. Of course, that structure would likely reduce the power, wealth and prestige of the Vatican clique. Will the modern constitutionally controlled secular Throne’s application of the international rule of law to the Vatican compel the cleansing of the imperial Altar and also bring about long overdue internal Church reforms?

It is remarkable that the Church began last month a laity-supported and irreversible “great escape” from this imperial medieval capitivity. The laity appear mainly motivated by a desire to benefit existing and future children, millions of whom suffer often as unplanned children of parents who cannot afford to raise them decently. Many children are also too often subjected to sexual abuse by priests whom the innocent children have been told by their parents to trust.

This “great escape” began as mentioned above during the historic week that commenced on November 6, 2012 with U.S. President Barack Obama’s re-election with majority Catholic voter support despite papal opposition over contraception, and ended on November 12, 2012 with Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard’s call for an Australian royal commission to investigate organizational child sexual abuse, including in the Catholic Church, despite much papal opposition earlier, but with overwhelming Catholic laity support.

The U.S. November 6 “contraception insurance victory” for President Obama and the simultaneous resounding defeat of anti-gay marriage initiatives, followed quickly by the Philippine legislature’s approval, again over papal objections but with widespread lay Catholic support, for providing broad access to affordable contraception, will likely reduce the frequency of U.S. and Philippine couples either having children they cannot afford or having to consider whether to seek an abortion. These are just plain facts demonstrated widely. The Vatican may claim otherwise and push some rear-guard action to save face and maintain the illusion of having political clout to “exchange”, but it has already lost the contraception and gay marriage legal wars as a practical matter.

The unprecedented and powerful Australian investigation commission will likely, as noted above, lead to the disclosure of many of the Catholic Church’s secret files on predatory priests and bishops’ mismanagement of them. This, in turn, will likely further alienate the worldwide Catholic laity and raise demands for effective hierarchical accountablity structures, perhaps just as the prospect of electing a new pope soon approaches. Perhaps enough voting Cardinals will wake up and smell the coffee, for their own sake at least.

Moreover, in the U.S., President Obama has also recently as reported above been publicly petitioned to set up a similar investigation commission, while President Obama’s Chief of Staff, Jack Lew, an orthodox Jew, just blasted Jewish educational leaders in New York on the need to protect children from sexual predators in religious educational settings.

Reportedly, President Obama’s Chief of Staff added, “Across this country in recent years, we have seen too much evidence of inappropriate behavior at too many institutions responsible for nurturing our children, …” adding, “…We can and must take a stand against it, promote awareness, set up preventative measures and openly address concerns as they arise.”

This follows President Obama’s several reported statements after the Penn State/Sandusky scandal erupted, as recently as last summer, that the protection of children from sexual abuse is more important than institutions.

A few days ago, the President reportedly apparently even bypassed his own Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, and went directly to the Army Secretary, an unusual move, to stress the importance of protecting children from abuse following revelations of numerous persons with police records, including some with sexual assault charges, working at a day care center on a Washington, D.C. area military base. Two of these persons have reportedly already even been charged with abusing children at the center. Clearly, the President is being very proactive here to protect children from organizational abuse. A stark contrast to Pope Benedict XVI’s approach.

Secretary Panetta has now ordered a complete review of child care personnel policies on military bases. As a former member of the U.S. Bishops’ original 2002 Child Protection Board, Secretary Panetta knows well the need to have tight procedures to curtail abuse. He presumably saw how U.S. Bishops have evaded accountability under their own 2002 Charter.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Holder has recently announced an international coalition against the sexual exploitation of children using the Internet. He has also pushed cases where Federal prosecutors have a present jurisdictional basis, including interstate sexual assaults involving children and child pornography cases. It is a good start, but more is needed, so please sign the above petition.

In late October, only a few weeks before the remarkable week of November 6-12, numerous carefully selected worldwide Cardinals and Bishops had met at the Vatican at a papally orchestrated week-long Vatican Synod on Evangelization that barely mentioned child sexual abuse. Some U.S. hierarchs there appeared to operate on the expectation that President Obama would not be re-elected. What a monumental difference a few weeks makes!

As alluded to above, following the loss of the Papal States in 1870 and several disasterous wars in Europe that by 1945 ended all other absolute monarchies in Europe and the fascist dictatorships in Germany and Italy that popes had initially facilitated, Pope John XXIII in 1961, the year of President Obama’s and Prime Minister Gillard’s birth, signed the call for the Second Vatican Council. Pope John apparently hoped with the Council to lead the Catholic Church to adjusting internally and externally to a new world of democratic and constitutionally controlled nations.

Following the several decades long withdrawal from most international political matters after the 1870 loss of the Papal States, the Vatican had adopted, as described above, beginning in the late 1920′s a new geo-political stategy of providing Vatican support in fledgling Western democracies to opportunistic leaders, like Mussolini, Hitler and Franco, in exchange for subsidies and privileges for the local national Catholic Church. Pope John XXIII, a seasoned world diplomat, knew the Vatican had to adjust to modern realities, but died in 1963 before he could achieve his goal. The Vatican cliques with their papal election veto then regained their dominant position and have since the 1960′s generally frustrated many of the structural reforms the Second Vatican Council had tried to initiate.

THE AUSTRALIAN CHALLENGE

Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s prominent Cardinal, has been considered by some informed sources as a top prospect to be elected pope in the next papal election expected to be held soon. After spending considerable time in late October in Rome with the Pope and numerous other top Cardinals and Bishops at the lengthy Evangelization Synod that was mainly silent on the priest child sex abuse scandal, Cardinal Pell indicated unexpectedly in a public speech earlier this month that the criminal moral cancer of sexual abuse of children by priests is the most important and powerful barrier to Catholic evangelization at present. As Cardinal Pell now faces an unprecedented Australian national governmental commission to investigate thoroughly organizational child sexual abuse in Australia, including in the Catholic Church, he surprisingly admitted in his speech that the Catholic Church has failed to deal effectively with some predatory priests and to help enough abuse victims heal. He further acknowledged that much more needs to be done in the child protection area.

Amazingly, as mentioned, the Evangelization Synod orchestrated by the Pope in late October barely mentioned the child abuse scandal. What may have caused Cardinal Pell so suddenly to “get religion” on abuse matters? Evidentally, Cardinal Pell is very concerned about the unprecedented investigation commission, and he should be from all indications. So should Pope Benedict XVI.

A brave New York mother who lost her brother to child abuse has filed recently an online White House petition mentioned above to have President Obama set up a similar US commission. A U.S.commission would likely affect U.S. Cardinals as much as the upcoming Australian commission has affected Cardinal Pell, who now publicly endorses the commission he was unable to stop.

CURRENT VATICAN STRATEGY

Cardinal Pell’s quick “conversion” raises questions of where Pope Benedict VI now stands. The October Synod seemed to indicate that the Pope will continue mainly to avoid the abuse scandal.The continuation of Kansas City’s Bishop Finn after his child endangerment conviction suggests continuing Vatican stonewalling. Moreover, the appointment of Cardinal Law’s former canon lawyer as chief Vatican abuse case prosecutor suggests more of the same.

Pope Benedict XVI is generally publicly elusive, doesn’t give journalists regular access and often clouds his carefully drafted statements, and now “Tweets”, with mystical smokescreens. But he has given some clear indications of his ongoing strategy on predatory priests, especially by some of his consistent actions and failures to act, including the recent Synod, Bishop Finn’s retention and his new chief prosecutor appointment. What might the Pope’s current strategy be?

Pope Benedict XVI, in his occasionally candid “My Vatican” video of a few years ago available readily on YouTube, volunteered the surprising admission that Vatican officials operate not very differently or more mysteriously than executives of major corporations. In a similar corporate vein, the pope’s long time doctrinal enforcement official, Cardinal Levada, in attempting to justify his recent carefully planned attack on U.S. Sisters, indicated in a recent interview that the Sisters were not properly presenting the Catholic Church’s “product identity”, pure corporate jargon.

Picking up on the Pope’s and Cardinal Levada’s useful admissions, one may justifiably ask what are the Vatican’s “corporate” structure, strategy, product identity and market position?

Cardinal Levada, for example, tried cutely to identify the Sisters’ “product” with the “Gospel according to Maureen Dowd”. She, of course, is the outspoken Catholic columnist at the New York Times whom Levada had earlier referred to as a “silly parrot”, perhaps because of her red hair and her propensity to soar verbally to peck holes so effectively in papal hot air balloons. Certainly, neither she nor the Sisters are silly!

For many US Catholics, Maureen Dowd’s and American Sisters’ “Gospel” is often much closer to Jesus’ Gospel than the corporate Gospel too often followed by the Pope and his other Vatican officials, most recently in the US presidential elections. The effective reporter and author, Jason Berry, has just convincingly shown in his “New Inquisition” articles that the three U.S. Bishops investigating the Sisters, as well as Cardinal Levada, are hypocritically carrying some of their own heavy baggage from their own different failures to address the child abuse scandal.

Cardinal Levada’s chauvinistic and gratuitous attack on American Sisters, and his premeditated pivot to Maureen Dowd as almost a feminine Martin Luther-type protestor, provide interesting perspectives on Vatican officials’ view of competent Catholic women. The Vatican’s nearly obsessive fear of Maureen Dowd’s pointed and incisive New York Times columns, especially, gives some indication of what “Women Bishops” will inevitably have to face from the Vatican’s exclusively male officials, which confrontation will likely occur much sooner than the Vatican may now be expecting.

Given the way the Nuns on the Bus easily outdistanced the Popemobile in the recent US electoral races, the sheltered Vatican administration with their chauvinistic attitudes have some good reason to fear sharing power with competent Catholic women. These brave women clearly seem less likely than many male bishops to be cowered into secrecy by threats of abrupt removal or to serve as papal puppets in exchange apparently mainly for a larger piece of the Catholic Church’s financial pie.

Is Pope Benedict XVI fallible here? Certainly. Before considering the papally admitted potential parallels of the Vatican’s approach to structure, strategy, product identity and market position to those of multinational corporations, one fundamental and clear difference must be emphasized. The Vatican uniquely operates secretly without accountability either internally to shareholder oversight or externally to regulatory oversight. In some ways, for example in its priest child abuse cover-up and its financial banking scandals, the Vatican seems at times to operate as a “rogue nation” accountable to no one internally or externally.

In my three decades representing many multinational corporations, I observed up close some top executives who would have envied greatly the Vatican’s secretive unaccountabilty, but that corporate battle was effectively lost years ago in constitutional democracies by subjecting corporate executives to the rule of law in a global regulatory environment.

The Pope’s revealing “corporate admission” that suggests one can view the Vatican similarly to corporate models provides a very useful way of analyzing the current Vatican’s approach to the Catholic Church’s “corporate” stucture, strategy, product identity and market position, which also sheds much light on the its flawed child protection strategy.

The Church’s corporate structure is analytically fairly simple. At the top is a pope who is “chief executive officer”, supreme legislator and top judge for life. In practice, papal decisions appear often to be influenced strongly, if not at times controlled by, senior Vatican Cardinals, especially the Secretary of State, currently Cardinal Bertone, who succeeded Cardinal Sodano, who appears still to be influential. Both of these Cardinals have reportedly been linked to several long standing scandals; Bertone to the Vatican Bank and a Milan hospital scandals and Sodano to the Mexican child sex abuser, Fr. Maciel, who eluded Vatican investigators for almost a half century by, among other things, reportedly frequently sprinkling large cash payments to powerful members of the Vatican clique.

The Pope, with his Vatican management team, controls Church canon law and judicial proceedings, and selects and controls worldwide Catholic bishops, who can be removed promptly by the pope. Priests and male and female members of religious orders are controlled directly by local Bishops and/or Vatican managers who direct the orders’ superiors. Any who deviate from currently favored Vatican theological or even political positions are generally disciplined promptly, often harshly and unfairly.

Pope Benedict XVI’s strategy appears targeted at maintaining maximum obedience to current papal theological, ecclesiastical and political positions. Opposing positions are at best given lip service, with the result that millions of Catholics, including priests, have left the Catholic Church in frustation, if not disgust. Some who stay try almost hopelessly and usually unsuccessfully to effect changes by stressing contrary precedents, especially the positions approved at the Second Vatican Council. In theory, clear positions approved by Church Councils could trump a contrary Vatican position. In practice, especially under Popes Benedict XVI and his immediate predecessor, in several crucial areas the Vatican’s interpretations of the Council is what controls Church practice, regardless of the weakness of the arguments supporting them.

The Cathholic Church’s key “product identity” appears to be to create a “monopoly” on the Eucharist, a central element of Catholic worship at the Mass, and on the all male celibate priesthood currently needed to offer the Eucharist worldwide, subject to the control of Bishops and ultimately the Vatican. A common meal of fellow believers in Jesus’ time, at least occasionally overseen by women, has become the central “unique product” in the Vatican’s “marketing” strategy. The pope and his Vatican management team, through numerous “theological” and liturgical statements, seeks to protect and preserve the Vatican’s monopoly here, but need a sufficient number of obedient priests to offer the “product”.

The Vatican seeks zealously to preserve its worldwide “market position” by protecting its “monopoly” on the Eucharist and on the requisite male priesthood against other Christian religious traditions externally and against alternative viewpoints internally, especially espoused often from women seeking admission to the priesthood.

While millions of Catholics have left the Church in rejection of the Vatican’s positions and approach, the Vatican’s prohibition on contraception has helped generate millions of “replacement Catholics”, born to Catholic couples whether or not the couples wanted or could afford to have additional children. Some of those children who survive, often in miserable circumstances, become future sources of Vatican power and wealth, as well as of new priests to serve to fill numerous priest shortages worldwide.

Against this corporate background, the Vatican has seemed incapable of containing its worldwide crisis of children being sexually assaulted by priests. Priests are needed to offer the main “product”, the Eucharist. It take years under current procedures to train young men to serve as obedient and low wage “producer priests”. The supply of domestic priests is diminishing in many countries and foreign “imports” have not and realistically in most cases cannot satisfactorily resolve the shortages.

Fearful of permitting priests to marry or to have women as priests, both of which means the Vatican might have to risk being viewed as “fallible” and then have to deal on a equal basis openly with women priests or priests’ wives, and even some mothers, on all issues, including child protection matters, and also pay at least married priests higher wages, the Vatican has to date thereby retricted the potential supply of new priests.

Consequently, Bishops are increasingly forced at times to ordain questionable seminarians and still even to retain predatory priests. Philly’s Archbishop Chaput is apparently still carrying suspected priests Cardinal Rigali suspended over a year and a half ago. Given this artifical constriction of the already diminishing candidate pool, the prospects are increasingly bleak for solving the predatory priest problem, no matter what the Pope may “tweet” otherwise!

Moreover, the Vatican’s “corporate” financial policy seems impervious to the multi-billion dollar continuing cash drain from child abuse claims. A continuing revenue stream from governmental subsidies, docile Catholics’ and protected plutocrats’ contributions, and Vatican investments and tax free properties, and a willingness to close parishes and schools, makes paying lawyers to protect Bishops an acceptable cost of business, like some financial firms that often treat fraud claims as an acceptable cost of doing business.

Survivors’ lawyers seeking usually the most cash for their cients, sooner rather than later, can apparently be depended on to settle claims and keep the bishops’ potentially incriminating files sealed if the settlement amounts are high enough. Apparently, bishops will often pay whatever is takes to protect themselves. While this expensive litigation process has benefited a small percentage of abuse survivors, it has not benefited many other survivors nor stimulated the Bishops yet to adopt real accountability measures like thorough independent audits.

In view of the unlikelihood as indicated above that the Vatican will effectively curtail predatory priests on its own initiative, governments need to compel corrective action. Please help this happen by signing the above petition.

Matters described above are readily substantiated on the Internet by entering the relevant key words in Google for links to the underlying news and other reports.

Finally, several excellent and readable books available now or soon in bookstores or online amplify much of the foregoing. Helpful summaries and/or reviews of most of them are presently freely available at Amazon.com/books.

These selective books are:

(1) The Theology of Fear, by Fr. Emmett Coyne;

(2) Can the Catholic Church Be Saved?, by Fr. Hans Kung (forthcoming soon in an English version);

(3) What Happened at Vatican II, by Fr. John O’Malley, S.J.;

(4) Trent: What Happened at the Council, by Fr. John O’Malley, S.J.;

(5) Electing Our Bishops: How the Catholic Church Should Elect Its Leaders, by Joseph O’Callaghan;

(6) Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, by Jason Berry;

(7) Perversion of Power: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, by Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea;

(8) The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability For Human Rights Abuse, by Geoffrey Robertson; and

(9) The Politics of Sex and Religion, by Robert Blair Kaiser, available for FREE as an E-Book at robertblairkaiser.com .

Fr Kevin Hegarty: Time to free church from clammy grip of clericalism


from the link: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2012/0410/1224314568128.html

Time to free church from clammy grip of clericalism

KEVIN HEGARTY

RITE AND REASON: Liberal Catholics have arrived at their views of church teaching on contraception, married and women priests, and homosexuality as a result of honest and honourable reflection

THE PAINTER Tony O’Malley had a custom of creating an artwork every Good Friday. When news broke during Holy Week of the Vatican censure of Fr Tony Flannery and the Redemptorist magazine Reality, I wished I could paint a picture to express my sadness.

Pope Benedict’s address at a Holy Thursday Mass in Rome copperfastened my gloom. Responding to a call to disobedience by Austrian priests and laity on celibacy and women priests he asserted that they had challenged “definite decisions of the church’s magisterium”.

Church leaders often talk of the right of free speech, most recently the Pope himself on his visit to Cuba. The recent Vatican moves are designed to create a climate of fear among liberal clerics. To echo a comment some years ago of the English writer AN Wilson, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith has “ways of making you not talk”.

I know Tony Flannery quite well. He has given 40 years of sincere service as a priest, mainly as a preacher of missions throughout Ireland. He is an engaging and empathetic speaker and an innovative liturgist. His columns in Reality, based on his commitment to the ideals of the Second Vatican Council and his vast knowledge of the Irish church, were often thought-provoking.

He is one of the founders of the Association of Catholic Priests, set up in September 2010, and one of its leadership team. The association has provided a forum for debate and an independent voice for Irish priests.

Among its achievements was its intervention in the case of Fr Kevin Reynolds, who was grievously libelled in the Prime Time Investigates programme last May.

I expect that Fr Reynolds would agree that without this help he would still be languishing in a limbo from which he might never have emerged.

Perhaps it is not surprising that the Vatican has moved to censure Fr Flannery. The Second Vatican Council promised an open and dialogical church, willing to engage with the secular world. Since the 1980s there has been in Rome a retreat from its reforms.

Pope Benedict has a jaundiced view of the council’s spirit. Last year he sent a team of apostolic visitors to examine the Irish church in the wake of the sexual abuse scandals. In the summary of their report issued recently, the visitors have a cut at liberal Catholics. They noted that a significant number of Irish Catholics held views at variance with “the teaching of the magisterium”.

They should be accorded full marks for their powers of observation. The many liberal Catholics in Ireland hope for a church that is open to married and women priests, a rethink on the issue of contraception as exhorted by Humanae Vitae, and a reversal of the harsh insensitivity of the teaching on homosexuality.

We have come to these positions as a result of honest and honourable reflection. We are not seeking change for the sake of change. We believe that such reforms would aid the emergence of a church that is more humane, relevant and inspiring, a church released from the clammy grip of clericalism.

Nor are these sincerely held views at variance with the fundamental doctrines of the church as the visitors claimed in their report. These doctrines relate, for example, to the humanity and divinity of Christ, the resurrection and the sacraments.

I am not aware of any priest in Ireland who publicly dissents from these beliefs.

There is a tendency of conservative church commentators to argue that liberal clerics are an ageing, disgruntled minority who have turned their misinterpretations of the Second Vatican Council into a kind of holy writ.

To them we are castaways on a remote island, brazenly holding aloft the tattered banners of the 1960s. They won’t like this but I have to disillusion them.

Anecdotal evidence, coupled with the results of a number of professional surveys, indicate that the majority of Irish Catholics support radical change in the church’s ministry and moral teaching.

To paraphrase Gerry Adams in a different context, we are not going away. The Vatican has been a “cold house” for liberal Catholics in recent years. The least we expect is respect for our freedom of speech and conscience.

A reform of the church which excludes these rights is a form of repression. It seems that Pope Benedict thinks “a creative minority” of Catholic conservatives will transform the church in Europe. To me that sounds like a polite euphemism for an assembly of Rick Santorum lookalikes.

Fr Kevin Hegarty is a priest in the parish of Kilmore-Erris in Co Mayo, and a columnist with the Mayo News.