Posts Tagged “congregation for the doctrine of the faith”

St Peter's Square, Vatican City - April 2007Unfortunately, this latest story is all too predictable. Moralizers being amoral is … well, let’s just say there’s nothing new about it. According to US News & World Report, Vatican police busted an orgy in the capitol of Roman Catholicism (Archive.Is cached article):

Vatican police have reportedly raided a Vatican-owned apartment and arrested an aide to one of Pope Francis’ key advisers.

Police in late June found widespread drug-use and men engaged in homosexual activity during the bust at the home owned by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, according to Il Fatto Quotidiano, an Italian newspaper that first reported the incident. Among its duties, the congregation guides the Church’s response to clerical sexual abuse cases.

Authorities reportedly arrested the secretary of Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, who was an occupant of the apartment, but official charges in connection with the incident have not been reported. Coccopalmerio, who serves as president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and leads interpretations of the laws of the Church, is said to have recommended his secretary for a promotion to bishop.

I believe Il Fatto Quotidiano‘s story on this raid can be found here. On reading about this, I wondered if this arrest might explain something the Pope did recently, and so too does USN&WR:

Days after granting [Cardinal George] Pell a release [to answer sexual assault charges], Pope Francis also removed German Cardinal Gerhard Mueller [cached] as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, according to The Associated Press. It is unclear if the reported drug arrest played any part in the pope’s decision.

As I said, this sort of thing is all too common. Many people are unable, or unwilling, actually to live up to the morals they happily demand others follow. This tendency is something the founder of Christianity himself condemned, and he explicitly ordered his followers never to engage in any kind of hypocritical behavior. It would be nice if the Cardinal’s secretary would stick a crowbar into the Bible he long ago slammed shut, open it up just a crack, actually read the damn thing, then just obey the instructions it contains, for once. But no, like most Christians throughout history, he refuses to do so.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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The day after KristallnachtIt’s common for irrationally sanctimonious people to hurl the old reductio ad Hiterum — or appeal to Hitler and/or the Nazis — at people they dislike. I’ve been blogging about this childish tendency for years now. It’s been used here in the U.S. by ideologues of all stripes. The Catholic Church has hurled ad Hitlerums lots of times, too, such as against President Obama and against the mass media for reporting on the worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal that’s rocked it for over a decade now. The Pope himself has even declared atheism and secularism to be forms of Nazism.

And it seems they can’t help but keep doing the same thing. Der Spiegel reports that no less a prince of the Church than its doctrinal enforcer has decided to hurl an implied — yet exceedingly clear — ad Hitlerum at the Church’s critics generally (WebCite cached article):

A German archbishop is under fire for appearing to liken recent criticism of the Catholic Church to a Nazi-era pogrom. The cleric, Gerhard Ludwig Müller, had said that “targeted discrimination campaigns” against the church sometimes reminded him of a “pogrom sentiment.”

The doctrinal watchdog of the Catholic church, German Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, has run into criticism from politicians for saying the church was being subjected to a “pogrom sentiment” because of its position on the ordination of women, same-sex partnerships and the celibacy of priests.

In an interview with the newspaper Die Welt published on Friday, the archbishop said: “Targeted discreditation campaigns against the Catholic Church in North America and also here in Europe have led to clerics in some areas being insulted in public. An artifcially created fury is growing here which sometimes reminds one of a pogrom sentiment.”

I was able to find the Die Welt article in question, but it’s in German (cached version). Note that Müller’s office — prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — is the same one that Cardinal Ratzinger held for over two decades prior to becoming Pope.

His use of the word “pogrom” is significant. While the word comes from Russian and was first used to speak of the harassment of Jews in that country in the wake of rumors that they’d been behind the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, “pogrom” has since become associated with any systemic harassment of Jews, up to and including the Holocaust wrought by the Third Reich. Archbishop Müller clearly thinks that criticizing the Catholic Church is the same as the “pogroms” which ultimately claimed the lives of millions of Jews. One cannot construe his accusation any other way.

Nevertheless, criticism is not wanton slaughter! It just isn’t. For Müller to say that is just fucking ridiculous.

It’s long past time for the wizened princes of the Church to grow the hell up for the first time in their sniveling little lives and stop bellyaching and whining that they’re being criticized. They no longer run the world, and that’s just how it’s going to be, from now on. They can either be mature and accept it, or act like little crybabies and keep complaining about it. Yes, I get that they can’t help themselves; as Christians, they wish to feel persecuted for Jesus, so even though no one is trying to wipe them out, they nevertheless delude themselves into thinking it’s happening. But they don’t have any rational excuse for clinging to their delusion … no matter how much they think they’re entitled to.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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

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St Augustine Cathedral, Tucson, Arizona, United StatesThe list of abusive priests whom the Vatican — and especially then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become current Pope Benedict XVI — refused to discipline, grows longer and longer. The latest examples of years of Vatican stalling were in Arizona. The AP reports via Google News on these revelations (WebCite cached article):

The future Pope Benedict XVI took over the abuse case of an Arizona priest, then let it languish at the Vatican for years despite repeated pleas from the bishop for the man to be removed from the priesthood, according to church correspondence.

Documents reviewed by The Associated Press show that in the 1990s, a church tribunal found that the Rev. Michael Teta of Tucson, Ariz., had molested children as far back as the late 1970s. The panel deemed his behavior — including allegations that he abused boys in a confessional — almost “satanic.” The tribunal referred his case to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would become pope in 2005.

But it took 12 years from the time Ratzinger assumed control of the case in a signed letter until Teta was formally removed from ministry, a step only the Vatican can take.

The problem is not that Arizona church officials wouldn’t do anything about Fr Teta. They did. But there were limits, and dangers remained that they could not do anything about:

Teta was removed from ministry by the bishop, but because the church’s most severe punishment — laicization — can only be handed down from Rome, he remained on the church payroll and was working with young people outside the church.

Another Arizona priest, Msgr Robert Trupia, similarly was allowed access to children for many years in spite of diocesan requests for the Vatican to act.

Astonishingly enough, however, the Tucson diocese claims nothing was done wrong in either case:

Fred Allison, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, defended the Vatican’s handling of the Teta and Trupia cases. Internal church trials took years and the priests’ appeals took years more, Allison said.

Oh well. I guess that makes it OK to let a known abusive priest retain access to children. We can’t let a minor consideration such as the safety of children stand in the way of ensuring a long protracted ecclesiastical process be honored, now, can we?

Isn’t it strange how the organization that claims to be the world’s sole remaining arbiter of morality, can keep rationalizing allowing evil to continue to be done, within its ranks, and keeps justifying inaction, secrecy, and evasiveness?

P.S. Now that the AP is reporting on priests whom the Vatican wouldn’t stop, I wonder if the Vatican will now go on the offensive and claim the AP is “anti-Catholic” or part of a “masonic secularist” conspiracy — as they did when the New York Times reported on a similar priest in Wisconsin?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Pope Benedict XVI, Vatican City, 2010-03-29 (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)A lawsuit filed in Kentucky in 2004 has forced the Roman Catholic Church to offer up legal theories that, it claims, show that it’s immune to a lawsuit over clerical abuse. The AP reports via Google News (locally cached version):

Dragged deeper than ever into the clerical sex abuse scandal, the Vatican is launching a legal defense that the church hopes will shield the pope from a lawsuit in Kentucky seeking to have him deposed.

Court documents obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press show that Vatican lawyers plan to argue that the pope has immunity as head of state, that American bishops who oversaw abusive priests weren’t employees of the Vatican, and that a 1962 document is not the “smoking gun” that provides proof of a cover-up. …

The Vatican is seeking to dismiss the suit before Benedict XVI can be questioned or secret documents subpoenaed.

This isn’t apparently the first U.S. court case to take up this matter:

The United States considers the Vatican a sovereign state — the two have had diplomatic relations since 1984. In 2007, U.S. District Court Judge John Heyburn rejected an initial request by the plaintiffs to depose Benedict.

“They will not be able to depose the pope,” said Joseph Dellapenna, a professor at Villanova University Law School an [sic] author of “Suing Foreign Governments and their Corporations.”

“But lower level officials could very well be deposed and there could be subpoenas for documents as part of discovery,” he said.

Note: The verb “depose” in this story refers — I assume — not to an attempt to remove the Pope from office (i.e. definition #1 from Merriam-Webster’s), but to force him to give a deposition (i.e. definition #3 from the same).

At any rate, the plaintiffs think they have documentary evidence to back up the claim of a cover-up:

Crucial to the Kentucky lawsuit is the 1962 document “Crimen Sollicitationis” — Latin for “crimes of solicitation.” It describes how church authorities should deal procedurally with cases of abuse of children by priests, cases where sex is solicited in the confessional — a particularly heinous crime under canon law — and cases of homosexuality and bestiality.

[Plaintiffs’ attorney William] McMurry argues that the document imposed the highest level of secrecy on such matters and reflected a Vatican policy barring bishops from reporting abuse to police. …

The existence of Crimen did not become publicly known until 2003, when a lawyer noticed a reference to the document while reading a 2001 letter written by Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. McMurry is seeking to subpoena Ratzinger’s letter, which instructed all bishops to send cases of clerical sex abuse to him and to keep the proceedings secret.

Strictly speaking, Crimen sollicitationis deals only with priests’ misconduct in the confessional or during the sacrament of reconciliation (also known as confession and/or penance). Many of the abuse cases that have been reported through the years do not involve the confessional or this sacrament; nevertheless, many Church officials have interpreted this 1962 letter as covering all accusations of abuse by a priest.

This case has already been bumped up to the federal appellate level, but the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed it to proceed in Kentucky courts again. I expect numerous appeals in this case, up and down through both the commonwealth and federal courts, for years to come. This isn’t over yet … not if the Vatican has anything to say about it.

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Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee, WIThe failure of the Roman Catholic Church — at every level — to deal with abusive clergy within its ranks, is slowly becoming more and more evident, as increasing amounts of information come to light about how it dealt with them. One such case is that of Fr Lawrence C. Murphy, who worked at St John’s School for the Deaf in Wisconsin, which the New York Times describes in detail (WebCite cached article):

Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

The Wisconsin case involved an American priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who worked at a renowned school for deaf children from 1950 to 1974. But it is only one of thousands of cases forwarded over decades by bishops to the Vatican office called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led from 1981 to 2005 by Cardinal Ratzinger. It is still the office that decides whether accused priests should be given full canonical trials and defrocked.

It took a long time for Ratzinger, then in charge of this case, to act on it. But after they began to act, they suddenly aborted the process, at Fr Murphy’s own request:

In 1996, Cardinal Ratzinger failed to respond to two letters about the case from Rembert G. Weakland, Milwaukee’s archbishop at the time. After eight months, the second in command at the doctrinal office, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, now the Vatican’s secretary of state, instructed the Wisconsin bishops to begin a secret canonical trial that could lead to Father Murphy’s dismissal.

But Cardinal Bertone halted the process after Father Murphy personally wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger protesting that he should not be put on trial because he had already repented and was in poor health and that the case was beyond the church’s own statute of limitations.

“I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood,” Father Murphy wrote near the end of his life to Cardinal Ratzinger. “I ask your kind assistance in this matter.” The files contain no response from Cardinal Ratzinger.

Of course, the CDF office at the Vatican — which then was under the command of the current Pope — was not the only part of the hierarchy which dropped the ball, in the case of Fr Murphy. Despite what they knew about him, Wisconsin bishops continued to grant him sanctuary and refused to report him to authorities:

Father Murphy not only was never tried or disciplined by the church’s own justice system, but also got a pass from the police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims, according to the documents and interviews with victims. Three successive archbishops in Wisconsin were told that Father Murphy was sexually abusing children, the documents show, but never reported it to criminal or civil authorities.

Instead of being disciplined, Father Murphy was quietly moved by Archbishop William E. Cousins of Milwaukee to the Diocese of Superior in northern Wisconsin in 1974, where he spent his last 24 years working freely with children in parishes, schools and, as one lawsuit charges, a juvenile detention center. He died in 1998, still a priest.

Among those in authority within the Church who moved Fr Murphy around, instead of holding him accountable for his actions, was Milwaukee archbishop Rembert Weakland, who — as I’ve blogged previously — admitted, after retiring, that he’d been unaware that child abuse was a criminal matter. It took many years for him to realize it, but eventually, even this amoral and reprehensible creature realized Fr Murphy shouldn’t be with children:

Archbishop Weakland said this week in an interview, “The evidence was so complete, and so extensive that I thought he should be reduced to the lay state, and also that that would bring a certain amount of peace in the deaf community.”

Nevertheless, Weakland’s “too little, too late” request was ignored anyway.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Pope Benedict XVI during general audition, 5/2/07Pope Benedict XVI has finally spoken to Ireland’s Catholics about the scandal that has plagued their country for decades, the vast scope of which was revealed was in the Ryan Report, which was released a whopping 10 months ago, and subsequently in the Murphy Report, released 4 months ago. That’s right … after almost a year, the Pope finally figured out that it was time to say something to a country rocked by the reprehensible conduct of some of its Roman Catholic clergy and covered up by its Catholic hierarchy.

As the old adage goes, “better late than never,” eh?

At any rate, Time magazine reports on the Pope’s letter, which will be read to Catholic congregations in Ireland over the weekend (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict XVI rebuked Irish bishops Saturday for “grave errors of judgment” in handling clerical sex abuse and ordered an investigation into the Irish church but did not mention any Vatican responsibility.

In a letter to the Irish faithful read across Europe amid a growing, multination abuse scandal, the pope doled out no specific punishments to bishops blamed by victims, and Irish government-ordered investigations, for having covered up abuse of thousands of Irish children from the 1930s to the 1990s.

The Pope’s letter directly addressed perpetrators as well as victims, and in surprisingly (for a letter of this type) stark terms:

Benedict used his harshest words for the abusers themselves, saying they had betrayed the trust of the faithful, brought shame on the church and now must answer before God and civil authorities.

He also used critical — but a bit less stern — language about the Irish hierarchy’s management of the problem:

Benedict faulted their [the perpetrators’] superiors, the Irish bishops, for having failed “sometimes grievously” to apply the church’s own law which calls for harsh punishments for child abusers, including defrocking priests.

Time notes that the Pope conveniently failed to apologize for what he may have done to make the problem worse and encourage the hierarchy’s cover-up:

While a cardinal at the Vatican, Joseph Ratzinger penned a letter instructing bishops around the world to report all cases of abuse to his office and keep them secret under threat of excommunication. Irish bishops have said the letter was widely understood to mean they shouldn’t report the cases to police.

Although it is true that this directive has been used by bishops around the world to justify hushing up the abuse cases — and in some instances using it to justify resisting subpoenas by secular authorities — we need to be honest about the situation: The letter by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was issued in 2001; but Roman Catholic cover-ups and the silencing of victims had been going on, in many countries, long before that — including at least one such instance in 1975 which Sean Brady, current Primate of Ireland, took part in while he was a priest. While this CDF letter certainly didn’t do much to help the situation, one can hardly say it was the start of the hierarchy’s secrecy policy, because quite obviously, it wasn’t. It did, however, set the previously-presumed secrecy policy in concrete, and thus created an impediment to hierarchical reforms, such as when the U.S. Catholic bishops met a few years ago, in the wake of the John Jay Report, to deal with the matter and establish new procedures. Thus, the Pope has a lot to answer for where his 2001 CDF letter is concerned … but no one should be fooled into thinking it was the source of the Church’s secrecy policy.

At any rate, I’m not sure that the Church’s critics will be satisfied with the letter the Pope released this weekend, but it’s evident that he knows there’s a great deal of anger about this scandal. This is only the start of the Vatican’s response to it; we’ll see how much more is done about it in the months and years to come. Yes, it will take the Vatican years to deal with this. It is as slow-moving an organization as any on the planet. Anyone who’s expecting swift, decisive action will be bitterly disappointed … because the Holy See is never swift or decisive — about anything.

Photo credit: Tadeusz Górny / Wikimedia Commons.

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cittá di vaticano | piazza di san pietroI blogged this morning about the Pope’s own personal involvement in the case of at least one pedophile priest (known only as “H”) during his tenure as Archbishop (and Cardinal) of Munich and Freising. This involvement is incontrovertible, since then-Cardinal and Archbishop Ratzinger signed the orders to reassign H — but the Vatican is saying that, somehow, in spite of this fact, the Pope had not actually been involved. (I guess they define “signing an order” as something other than “involvement,” although this defies logic.) The New York Times reports on this Vatican push-back campaign (WebCite cached article):

Vatican Sees Campaign Against the Pope

As new details emerged on allegations of child sexual abuse by priests in the Munich archdiocese then led by Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican spoke out on Saturday to protect the pope against what it called an aggressive campaign against him in his native Germany. …

In a note read on Vatican Radio on Saturday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said it was “evident that in recent days there are those who have tried, with a certain aggressive tenacity, in Regensburg and in Munich, to find elements to involve the Holy Father personally in issues of abuse.” He added, “It is clear that those efforts have failed.”

I don’t know how this “failure” came about, since H’s reassignment order could only have been approved by his Archbishop … i.e. Joseph Ratzinger. Moreover, it had been Ratzinger, who — after leaving the archdiocese of Munich and Freising, had presided over the Church’s doctrinal-watchdog arm, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — had personally ordered any abuse proceedings to be kept secret and thus out of reach of secular criminal authorities:

In the interview on Saturday, Monsignor Scicluna also addressed accusations that the Vatican was obstructing justice by imposing secrecy on reports of abuse.

In 2001, Benedict, who was then in charge of Vatican investigations of abuse allegations, sent a letter to bishops counseling them to forward all cases of abuse of minors to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where they were to be subject to secrecy.

While dismissing the idea that the Vatican imposed secrecy “in order to hide the facts,” Monsignor Scicluna said that “secrecy during the investigative phase served to protect the good name of all the people involved; first and foremost, the victims themselves, then the accused priests who have the right — as everyone does — to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.”

But he said church secrecy had “never been understood as a ban on denouncing the crimes to the civil authorities.”

Nevertheless, it is this same policy which Catholic bishops around the world have — since it was issued — used to justify refusing to hand over information on accused priests to secular criminal authorities. Scicluna can say this was not intended … and it may not have been … but it did, nevertheless, happen.

The Vatican’s paranoid, “it’s-just-a-nefarious-anti-papal-plot” reasoning is, at best, irrational, and at worst, downright delusional. It’s time for Catholics to stop letting them get away with these responses.

Photo credit: p_valdivieso.

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