Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Nothing To Do With Us"

Archbishop Dairmuid Martin giving the Vatican the next scapegoat in the abuse crisis:  the 'cabal' frustrating change.

 It takes 25 pages and 11,000 words to say - 'nothing to do with us'

Patsy McGarry - Irish Times - 9/5/2011 

THE VATICAN’S response to the Cloyne report, as well as to comments by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and motions passed by Dáil and Seanad, would have us believe that the clerical child sex abuse scandals in Ireland are an Irish problem, where Rome’s only involvement has been in helping with a solution.

For this, it believes, it has received little or no acknowledgement in Ireland. For instance, Saturday’s response noted that nowhere in his Dáil speech of July 20th last did Kenny recognise any of its efforts to improve matters in this context, and that Pope Benedict’s Letter to the Catholics of Ireland in March last year didn’t even merit a mention in the Cloyne report.

What happened in Ireland was because of local factors, the response indicates – helpfully quoting from the pope’s letter of March last year to underline this.
There, addressing the Irish bishops directly, he said: “Some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse.”
That may well be so, but it is not the entire picture.

Selectively choosing what it wished to address, the Vatican response ignored completely its own treatment of the Murphy commission. It was set up by this State, yet it did not merit an acknowledgement from the Vatican when in September 2006 it wrote to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith requesting information. Two further requests for information received no reply.

Nowhere in its response, which runs to 25 pages and almost 11,000 words, is any of this addressed by the Vatican. Rather it takes issue with certain findings of the Cloyne report which might have been clarified had it co-operated with the commission, whose remit was extended from the Dublin diocese to cover Cloyne in 2009. It can hardly complain if its non-cooperation backfired. (Yes it can, it's the Vatican. It's both a state and a Church.  It may have failed as a State in this instance, but this letter is talking from the point of view of being a Church, essentially complaining that it's being treated as a State.)

The response largely focused on the 1996 framework document on child protection, prepared for the Irish bishops, but shot down in a letter circulated to them by the Vatican in January 1997.
The response rejected, robustly, a finding of the Cloyne report that: “There can be no doubt that this letter greatly strengthened the position of those in the church in Ireland who did not approve of the framework document as it effectively cautioned them against its implementation.”

The letter pointed out how the then prefect of that congregation, Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, had, at a meeting in November 1998 with the Irish bishops at Rosses Point in Sligo, “unequivocally stated” that the church “should not in any way put an obstacle in the legitimate path of civil justice” when it came to issues of clerical child abuse.

Nowhere does it quote from that 1997 letter, which said that, where the Congregation for Clergy was concerned, a framework document direction on mandatory reporting “gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature”.
The congregation also warned that procedures in the document appeared “contrary to canonical discipline”. It also referred to it as “merely a study document”. (Contrary to canonical discipline includes the call for Pontifical secrecy.)

This latter observation, it said at the weekend, was a reflection of the document’s standing among the Irish bishops. The weekend response also emphasised that none of this meant the framework document guidelines could not be implemented in Irish dioceses and that “each individual bishop was free to adopt it . . . provided these were not contrary to canon law”. The Vatican appears to be trying to have its cake and eat it, repeating what was said in the 1997 letter. (Which essentially means they were free to adopt it, and free to pay the price for adopting it, which to their credit most of them did.)

All of which is to ignore the frustration felt by the Irish bishops in dealing with Cardinal Hoyos over the abuse issue. In a comment to this newspaper last December, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said that in the past “most of the Irish bishops felt that dealing with the Congregation for Clergy was disastrous”. It was understood he was referring to the period between 1996 and 2006, when Cardinal Hoyos was prefect at that congregation.

An Irish bishop confirmed, on condition of anonymity, that he made a note at the time of his receipt of that 1997 letter in which he described it as “a mandate to conceal the crimes of a priest”.
At the same Rosses Point meeting in 1998, the then archbishop of Dublin Desmond Connell thumped a table in frustration as Cardinal Hoyos insisted it was Vatican policy to defend the rights of an accused priest above all.

In 2001 Cardinal Hoyos wrote a letter to French bishop Pierre Pican praising him for not passing information about an abuser priest to police. Bishop Pican received a suspended sentence for failing to report the priest who was sentenced to 18 years for the repeated sexual assault of boys over 20 years, and the rape of one of them.

Cardinal Hoyos wrote to Bishop Pican

In the Murphy report chancellor of the Dublin archdiocese Msgr John Dolan is reported as having said that the 1997 letter “placed the [Irish] bishops in an invidious position”. It meant any priest against whom they took action “had a right of appeal to Rome and was most likely to succeed.” (Essentially, to report to the police compromised a defendants rights by breaking Pontifical secrecy and compromising their right to a 'fair' canonical defense.)

None of this is addressed in Rome’s weekend response.


The truth is Rome is slowly backing itself into a corner.  Ten years ago clerical abuse was an "American problem".  Then it was a "gay priest" problem.  Then it became a "priest problem".  Then a problem of "some bishops".  Now it's a problem of the Irish government and most Irish bishops.  Soon I'm sure it will be a problem for some cardinals and Vatican bureaucrats --Archbishop Martin's 'cabal'.  I'm beginning to wonder if the strategy is to avoid admitting any papal responsibility until Benedict is dead and on his way to sainthood and his predecessor has been canonized.  This has to be extremely frustrating for victims who are intimately familiar with how this system operates.  It's just so sick and ultimately very sad.


  1. I am totally discouraged about the lack of Episcopal leadership but perhaps Leonardo Boff lends some good reflection.

    Encouragement for those disappointed with the Church, by Leonardo Boff, Theologian

    There is great disappointment with the institutional Catholic Church. A double emigration is happening: one is exterior, persons who simply leave the Church, and the other is interior, those who remain in the Church but who no longer feel that she is their spiritual home. They continue believing, in spite of the Church.
    It’s not for nothing. The present pope has taken some radical initiatives that have divided the ecclesiastic body. He chose a path of confrontation with two important episcopacies, the German and the French, when he introduced the Latin Mass. He articulated an obscure reconciliation with the Church of the followers of Lebfrevre; gutted the principal renewal institutions of Vatican Council II, especially ecumenism, absurdly denying the title of «Church» to those Churches that are not Catholic or Orthodox. When he was a Cardinal he was gravely permissive with pedophiles, and his concern with AIDS borders the inhumane. (cont. in next post.)

  2. The present Catholic Church is submerged in a rigorous winter. The social base that supports the antiquated model of the present pope is comprised of conservative groups, more interested in the media, in the logic of the market, than in proposing an adequate response to the present grave problems. They offer a «lexotan-Christianity» good for pacifying anxious consciences, but alienated from the suffering humanity.
    It is urgent that we animate these Christians about to emigrate with what is essential in Christianity. It certainly is not the Church, that was never the object of the preaching of Jesus. He announced a dream, the Kingdom of God, in contraposition to the Kingdom of Caesar; the Kingdom of God that represents an absolute revolution in relationships, from the individual to the divine and the cosmic.
    Christianity appeared in history primarily as a movement and as the way of Christ. It predates its grounding in the four Gospels and in the doctrines. The character of a spiritual path means a type of Christianity that has its own course. It generally lives on the edge and, at times, at a critical distance from the official institution. But it is born and nourished by the permanent fascination with the figure, and the liberating and spiritual message of Jesus of Nazareth. Initially deemed the «heresy of the Nazarenes» (Acts 24,5) or simply, a «heresy» (Acts 28,22) in the sense of a «very small group», Christianity was acquiring autonomy until its followers, according to The Acts of The Apostles (11,36), were called, «Christians».
    The movement of Jesus is certainly the most vigorous force of Christianity, stronger than the Churches, because it is neither bounded by institutions, nor is it a prisoner of doctrines and dogmas. It is composed of all types of people, from the most varied cultures and traditions, even agnostics and atheists who let themselves be touched by the courageous figure of Jesus, by the dream he announced, a Kingdom of love and liberty, by his ethic of unconditional love, especially for the poor and the oppressed, and by the way he assumed the human drama, amidst humiliation, torture and his execution on the cross. Jesus offered an image of God so intimate and life-friendly that it is difficult to disregard, even by those who do not believe in God. Many people say, «if there is a God, it has to be like the God of Jesus».
    This Christianity as a spiritual path is what really counts. However, from being a movement it soon became a religious institution, with several forms of organization. In its bosom were developed different interpretations of the figure of Jesus, that were transformed into doctrines, and gathered into the official Gospels. The Churches, when they assumed institutional character, established criteria of belonging and of exclusion, doctrines such as identity reference and their own rites of celebration. Sociology, and not theology, explains that phenomenon. The institution always exists in tension with the spiritual path. The ideal is that they develop together, but that is rare. The most important, in any case, is the spiritual path. This has a future and animates the meaning of life.
    The problem of the Roman Catholic Church is her claim of being the only true one. The correct approach is for all the Churches to recognize each other, because they reveal different and complementary dimensions of the message of the Nazarene. What is important is for Christianity to maintain its character as a spiritual path. That can sustain so many Christian men and women in the face of the mediocrity and irrelevancy into which the present Catholic Church has fallen.
    Leonardo Boff

  3. Boff, like Mathew Fox, does not pull any punches.

    They both come close to admitting the real problem, which is that there are too many people who benefit very nicely thank you very much, from the fact the Vatican is highly secretive, answers to no one, has fingers everywhere in the world, and has it's own bank well connected with the global banking industry. It has the freedom to operate exactly like a black ops unit, but in plain sight.

  4. Have you ever considered that the ability for a big bank to hide so much might get some people killed--- hanging from a London Bridge, or even poisoned in a papal chamber?

  5. Yes, it was the Banco Ambrosia scandal that opened my eyes and then from there the Rat Line and on and on and on.

    Even if there are less than say, two percent of clergy involved in any of these activities, the fact the other ninety eight percent will keep silent or are afraid to talk keeps the machine rolling. This is one of the lessons of the sexual abuse crisis, and one not very often mentioned.

    When it comes to how the clerical culture actually operates, transparency and integrity are virtually squashed out of existence by obedience and loyalty.
    Benny is where he is because the system needed Benny, just as the system ran right over JPII,did away with JPI, terrified Paul the VI, and got caught by surprise by John XXIII. I suspect John knew reform had to bypass the Vatican and come from the ground up. That's still true.

  6. Reform. Let's look at history. (From the introduction to a book on how the Cistercians did reform back in the 12th century -Penguin Classics, The Cistercian World):

    "They were at once reformers and traditionalists." (But WHAT was the "traditional" view of traditionalism?)

    "The Church habitually renews itself by returning to its apostolic origins, by seeking to tap afresh the source of evangelical simplicity and fervour that imbued its first beginnings and the Cistercians took this path." (hmmmm....) "They turned to St. Benedict in an attempt to reach beyond him to the Desert Fathers and the Church of the apostles. Scripture was their nourishment.... Theological speculation was merely a vaulting form of the idle curiosity condemned by St. Benedict..."

    "They wrote not about belief but about faith, and love, and contemplation." (They pared down the overly complex liturgy and the pomp and circumstance - to get the pure essence of worship - in the language of the people! They emphasized spiritual friendship, a loose central organization, and community cohesion and self-government - in order to foster spiritual growth.)

    Notice a pattern here? See how clearly different the historical "reform" is from the present focus on pomp and circumstance, a dead language, and the intricacies of "doctrine" versus the purity of scripture. (And this was the 12th century! Hmmm...)

    Not that anyone here needed a dose of sanity or anything.

  7. Kenny did it, apparently:


    So that's all the right then.

    What I would like to say about the Vatican is not printable. What is truly baad is that there has not been any apology from Rome - a few words, now and again, is not an apology. There is not the slightest indication of repentance and conversion - but they are about as central to Christian discipleship as can be. But without them, this ghastliness will happen all over again.

  8. "For this, it believes, it has received little or no acknowledgement in Ireland."

    Poor little me,
    Nobody likes me,
    Everybody hates me,
    I'm going to go and eat worms.

    That is what that sounds like. I left that attitude behind when I was six (or so). To be crucified is not to be shown gratitude either - I think Jesus suffered just a little more than the Vatican has.

    "What happened in Ireland was because of local factors, the response indicates – helpfully quoting from the pope’s letter of March last year to underline this."

    So that's why there has been abuse in the US Church, and in Canada, and elsewhere. Now we know. These characters are like children who cover their eyes so as not to see an on-coming car; their inability to see it will not stop it running them over.

  9. Colleen, great analysis. I'm struck by your statement, "I'm beginning to wonder if the strategy is to avoid admitting any papal responsibility until Benedict is dead and on his way to sainthood and his predecessor has been canonized."

    I think you're right on track here. Check out Vatican cheerleader and papal apologist John Allen's latest article at NCR. It's all about how no one except insiders (e.g., him and the bishops with whom he hobnobs) really understands how complex the Vatican is.

    And how it can't just snap its fingers and make things happen, because the church is so local and so diffuse and so complex at the local level.

    So that the Vatican is hardly responsible for anything at all in the church, though its power is absolute and it demands absolute obedience to that power!

    Allen refers to an upcoming interview of his with Timothy Dolan, and to his chummy relationship with Chaput and what Chaput says--both apparently echoing this new party line of complexity and lack of Vatican responsibility for anything.

    I've seen this same dynamic at work in universities where I've been an administrator, and in corporations. When it comes to exercising authority, the top man is unquestionable and has all the authority in the world.

    But when it comes to taking responsibility for the exercise of authority, suddenly he's powerless and the organization he leads with absolute authority is too complex to understand or analyze.

    It's a game designed to protect those on top.

  10. Bill, I've seen the same phenomenon. The tip off is when all of a sudden loyalty and obedience to the chain of command become core values. When that happens you can kiss integrity and transparency good bye.

    The only place this paradigm actually works is in the military where the mission is kill or be killed and taking time to argue a point is a recipe for death.

    When the mission is healing, blind loyalty and obedience are almost always counter productive because they are predominately fear based strategies. Healing is about love and love needs transparency and integrity to flourish because they build internal trust and trust is a very necessary component of strong love. It is impossible to truly love that which you don't trust. It is however possible to obey that which you truly fear.