Posts Tagged “canon law”

Pope Francis among the people at St. Peter's Square - 12 May 2013Since his ascension to the Vatican throne, there’s been an expectation, or perhaps just a hope, that Pope Francis would finally adopt a new tactic in the handling of the Catholic Church’s worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal. As something of a reform advocate, Church watchers assumed he’d do things differently. And he has, in fact, marched to his own drum in many regards, as I’ve blogged quite often, but where “priestly pedophilia” has been concerned, he’s mostly been a big disappointment.

Yeah, he’s said and done a few things that suggest he “gets it,” but in the end, nothing has really changed, on that score. The best example of this is his special review commission, which apparently imploded because at least one of its members (foolishly, it seems) expected some actual results from it. “Priestly pedophilia” has turned out to be an ongoing problem which Francis ultimately hasn’t done anything about.

But that may have changed. I emphasize the “may have” in that sentence. The Associated Press reports the Pope has changed canon law so that bishops who failed to protect children might be disciplined (locally-cached version):

Pope Francis has established legal procedures to remove bishops who botch handling sex abuse cases, saying they can be kicked out of office if the Vatican finds they were negligent in doing their jobs.

In a law published Saturday, Francis answered a long-running demand by victims of abuse and their advocates to hold bishops accountable for failing to protect their flocks from pedophiles. Victims have long accused bishops of covering up for abuse, moving rapists from parish to parish rather than reporting them to police.

In the law, Francis acknowledged that the church’s canonical code already allows for a bishop to be removed for “grave reasons.” But he said he wanted to precisely state that negligence, especially negligence in handling abuse cases, can cost a bishop his job.

Yes, it’s true there really hasn’t been anything to date preventing a Pope from demanding the resignation of a negligent bishop — for pretty much any reason at all. It could always have been done, had it been desired. The Pope has a great deal of authority, both within and outside of canon law. But having this provision explicitly within canon law is a noteworthy change.

Even so — as with the review commission that collapsed — that doesn’t mean anything will ever come of this. The Vatican will, in all likelihood, continue doing as it wishes. We’ll just have to see if this new canon law actually goes anywhere … and given the Catholic bureaucracy’s glacial pace, it might take years for it to be noticed.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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WYD Mass with Archbishop Timothy DolanIt’s been about a decade since the Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal hit the United States. During that time, Catholic hierarchs here have not handled it well. Most recently they’ve resolved not to accept criticism any more: they’ve decided to blame it all on society, or worse, on the child victims; some of them no longer accept that there had been any wrongdoing; others have hurled the slur of “anti-Catholic” at media outlets that dare continue reporting on it (cached); and recently they’ve launched a political and societal pushback campaign in order to regain the authority and influence they lost because of their refusal to deal properly with abusive clergy.

What one never sees from them, is a plain, simple, contrite, and candid admission of fault. Their patttern of behavior … over a period of decades … has been to move the abusers so they won’t be caught and silence the victims so no one hears about the abuse.

But as though these weren’t bad enough on their own, it seems one hierarch in particular — and possibly others — have used yet another tactic: To bribe abusive priests into leaving the clergy and keeping quiet about what they did. Another term for this which you may have heard about, is “hush money.” ABC News reports that the current Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, used precisely this tactic, back when he was archbishop of Milwaukee (WebCite cached article):

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the archdiocese of New York is keeping quiet today after his old diocese, the archdiocese of Milwaukee, confirmed that under his leadership the church paid individual sums of $20,000 to priests accused of molesting children.

Dolan, who became a cardinal in February and serves as the head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is recorded discussing the payments in the minutes of financial committee meetings in 2003, documents released as the Milwaukee archdioecese goes through bankruptcy court in Wisconsin.

The archdiocese of Milwaukee confirmed to the Associated Press Wednesday that the church paid the priests money to voluntarily sign papers to leave the priesthood because it was cheaper and faster than removing them by other administrative routes, which would have included going through the Vatican.

The reason cited for this, was in order to get rid of the abusive priests quickly:

“In 2002, the Church affirmed that priest offenders should no longer be functioning as priests in any capacity and having someone seek laicization voluntarily is faster and less expensive and it made sense to try and move these men out of the priesthood as quickly as possible,” Archdiocese spokeswoman Julie Wolf told local news station WTMJ-TV.

Here’s accompanying video, courtesy of ABC News:

This scenario triggers a couple of questions. First, the overall R.C. hierarchy handles the process of laicization, which happens via canon law. As such, the nature of that process itself is under the hierarchs’ control. If that process is so long and arduous as to be unusable, then why didn’t they instead simply alter that process and make it quicker?

Second, if they were so eager to get these guys out of the Church, they must have been fully aware of their criminality and convinced of their guilt. If that’s the case, why did they not also want to turn them over to the police?

Once again, documentary revelations allow us to peer deep into the seedy side of the Roman Catholic Church. The picture they paint is not a pretty one. I continue to be amazed that so many Catholics in the US have remained so steadfastly loyal to an organization which clearly has degraded into amorality. When are they finally going to admit their Church is a stinking cesspool? When are they going to seize control of their own Church and wrench it back into shape? What are they waiting for? What more evidence do they need?

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Lawrence OP, via Flickr.

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Schlacht von ArsufThe Great Neocrusade proceeds relentlessly across the United States. Sanctimonious Religious Rightists are proposing laws in several states which outlaw what they call “shari’a law.” As one would expect, these bills are invariably based on erroneous assumptions about Islam and the nature of shari’a law, and based upon a prevailing fear that shari’a law is being imposed on the country by force.

First we have Tennessee state senators Bill Ketron and Judd Matheny, who want to abolish shari’a law there, as reported in the Washington Post On Faith blog (WebCite cached article):

Tennessee State Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and state Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) introduced a bill last week outlawing the practice of Sharia, a complex set of religious laws that guide behavior for Muslims.

The bill, embedded below, attempts to define Sharia law and to make following it a felony punishable by 15 years in jail.

The bill in question is SB1028, available here. Of note is that Murfreesboro is where some raging Neocrusaders set fire to a mosque under construction back in October. Ketron and Matheny’s problem is that they misdefine shari’a; they further claim that Islam itself is a combined legal-military-political ideology, and imply that it’s not a religion. This mirrors what TN lieutenant governor Ron Ramsey said last summer, that Islam is a political-legal system, not a religion, and therefore not entitled to First Amendment protection. Ketron and Matheny also don’t bother to explain where, in the US, any government at any level has ever been able to force anyone to knuckle under to shari’a — even though his bill is predicated on the idea that it’s happening.

Next, we have Arizona — which appears to have become the epicenter of militant Rightism in the US — where a proposed bill (HB 2582) would outlaw all forms of religious law, including shari’a (cached):

“Religious sectarian law” means any statute, tenet or body of law evolving within and binding a specific religious sect or tribe. Religious sectarian law includes sharia law, canon law, halacha and karma but does not include any law of the united states or the individual states based on Anglo?American legal tradition and principles on which the united states was founded.

The authors of this bill have essentially gone berserk on the entire notion of “religious law,” and don’t understand what they’re talking about. First, “religious law” systems like Halakha (within Judaism) and canon law (within several Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic, Anglican and the several Orthodox churches) are — at least partly — the manner in which those religions conduct their own internal affairs, serving as a kind of administrative code. To abolish them completely would obviously run afoul of their religious freedoms. Second, karma is not a system of administration, but rather, a metaphysical principle within Hinduism and other Dharmic religions. It can’t be used in court, as far as I can see, despite the fact that it’s often referred to as a “law.” It’s no more a code of administration or justice than the so-called “Law” of Attraction.

Let me be clear: I do not favor the imposition of shari’a on anyone in the US. It’s a dangerous, metaphysically-charged, often-barbaric code which should be phased out worldwide — the sooner, the better. And I’m not in favor of the Roman Catholic Church holding its own canon law above the secular laws of the lands in which the Church operates; where criminal law and canon law collide, criminal law should prevail. However, passing laws to abolish shari’a law, or any other religious law-code, within the US is irrational, asinine, and childish. There is no way that any religious law-code can ever be imposed on Americans, due to the First Amendment, among other Constitutional protections. Bills such as these accomplish nothing useful, except to demonstrate the immaturity and ignorance of those who draft, sponsor, and support them. And the idea that karma is even a law-code that could ever be used in any kind of court to issue rulings … well, let’s just say this so obviously laughable that the authors and sponsors of AZ HB 2582 should hang their heads in shame. They’ve just shown themselves to be idiotic dolts who thoroughly deserve every bit of derision that’s going to be heaped on them over their ignorant bill.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum, and Unreasonable Faith.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Image of a 1997 letter from the Vatican warning Irish bishops not to report suspected child-abuse cases to police.The Mafia-like philosophy of the Roman Catholic Church’s hierarchy continues to be revealed as information emerges from the Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal. The latest revelation comes in the form of a letter, originally written by Vatican officials to Ireland’s bishops in 1997, ordering them not to report child abuse to local authorities. The AP reports via Canada’s The Globe and Mail on this remarkable document (WebCite cached article):

A newly revealed 1997 letter from the Vatican warned Ireland’s Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police – a disclosure that victims groups described as “the smoking gun” needed to show that the Vatican enforced a worldwide culture of coverup.

The letter, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to The Associated Press, documents the Vatican’s rejection of a 1996 Irish church initiative to begin helping police identify pedophile priests following Ireland’s first wave of publicly disclosed lawsuits.

What makes this a “smoking gun” is that it shows the Vatican to have lied about the scandal:

The letter undermines persistent Vatican claims, particularly when seeking to defend itself in U.S. lawsuits, that the church in Rome never instructed local bishops to withhold evidence or suspicion of crimes from police. It instead emphasizes the church’s right to handle all child-abuse allegations, and determine punishments, in house rather than hand that power to civil authorities.

The letter also shows the Vatican’s primary concern was to ensure that canon law — i.e. the Church’s own internal legal system — handled these cases and that secular courts would never see them. Once again we see that the Church views itself as being above the law of the countries in which it operates, and assumes itself answerable to no one and nothing else.

The Globe and Mail hosts a copy of the letter, just large enough to read if one works at it (WebCite cached version).

My guess is that Catholicism’s apologists will refuse to acknowledge the lie demonstrated in this letter and will refuse to accept any possibility of wrongdoing by Church hierarchs.

Hat tip: Repi at Atheist/Agnostic/Herding Cats on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: The AP, via The Globe and Mail.

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Jesus statueFor a while now the Vatican has been promising to issue new guidelines for handling clerical abuse claims within the realm of Church law. The unspoken implication behind the Holy See’s promises has been that the procedures would change for the better … that is, by tightening accountability of all involved and declaring that accusations should be relayed to local civil authorities. But one of the things the Vatican is most famous for is its reluctance to change; thus, it’s no surprise that its newly-announced guidelines are really not much more than a restatement of the status quo. The New York Times reports on this latest piece of evidence that the Catholic Church is in the throes of a moral collapse (WebCite cached article):

In its most significant revision to church law since a sex abuse crisis hit the United States a decade ago and roared back from remission in Europe this spring, the Vatican on Thursday issued new internal rules making it easier to discipline priests who have sexually abused minors.

But in a move that infuriated victims’ groups and put United States bishops on the defensive, it also codified “the attempted ordination of women” to the priesthood as one of the church’s most grave crimes, along with heresy, schism and pedophilia.

Note here the effort at diversion: In the midst of responding to one issue, the Catholic clerical abuse scandal, the Vatican couldn’t resist getting a dig in at another — completely unrelated — issue, that being the (potential for) ordination of women. How obvious … not to mention juvenile!

Of course, the Vatican is denying reality and misrepresenting the nature of this document:

In a statement, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the changes were a sign of the church’s commitment to addressing child sex abuse with “rigor and transparency.”

There is, in fact, nothing “rigorous” about this, and nothing has been done to enhance “transparency.” Bishops are still free to shuffle clergy around and allow abusers to prey on new victims, even when their wrongdoing is known. There is no accountability for the hierarchy. None whatsoever. That was the case before, and it remains the case now.

Photo credit: missliz.

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