Monday, 4 March 2013

Vatican Secrecy Behind Sexual Abuse Scandal

Recently, while commenting on a conservative Catholic website, I responded to  Pope Benedict’s legacy as follows:

• Kept silent about pedophile priests

 • Silenced more than 100 theologians

 • Denounced Liberation Theology

 • Refused any discussions about women and their role in the Church

• Dismissed Collegiality

• Labeled homosexual actions/relationships as intrinsically evil

• Politicized American bishops by instructing them how to encourage laity to vote

• Prohibited the use of available birth control methods

• Put into doubt the operation of Women Religious in USA

• Maintained that all other religions are inferior to Roman Catholicism

• Called for obedience to the Church teachings at the cost of the individual    conscience

• Re interpreted Vatican II

My comments sparked a number of opposing and rude responses. This was of course not totally unexpected.  However, when one individual surprisingly replied “I have been hearing about this “silence on pedophile priests” accusation for weeks yet I have not been able to find one shred of evidence”.   Perhaps this blindness may be attributed to  Benedict’s insistence that the laity must unconditionally obey church teaching even at the expense of their individual conscience. (a direct contradiction to the views held by Vatican II) For as long as we stick our head in the sand while the Vatican insists on keeping the sexual abuse issue a secret  we and others will not have to acknowledge or address the worldwide problem of sexual abuse.

As a very young victim of sexual abuse I feel compelled to bring this blight out of its present darkness in our church into the light of Christ.  Healing can only begin with truth.  Victims of sexual abuse must be encouraged to speak about their pain, no matter how difficult. Covering it up or hiding it merely allows it to fester and become a lifelong torment.  That the Roman Catholic Church should have choosen the latter is particularly devious and completely contrary to anything that one would suspect a religious institution under Jesus Christ would uphold. To date the church has yet to address the systemic and endemic issues that have led to this disastrous outcome.  Pray we will finally find a reason to address this world wide problem?

Unfortunately the Roman Catholic Church has a long history of secrecy about sexual abuse. Apparently as much as 2000 years according to some very credible and Catholic experts.   Thomas P. Doyle, A.W.R. Sipe and Patrick J. Wall in their book ‘Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes’ (2006) “The extreme secrecy that was imposed on everybody dealing with the investigation of priests accused of soliciting sex from penitents was, in the last century, imposed on every body involved in the investigation of clerical perpetrators of sexual abuse of children.”   

When the media revealed the extend of the sexual abuse that had taken place at Mt. Cashel Orphanage during the late 1980s and early 1990s involving more than 300 young victims some people might have believed this was an isolated incidence.  However, this proved to be only the beginning.  Today we know that these abuses, particularly as it affected pedophile clergy (including bishops and cardinals) within the Roman Catholic Church have occurred and continue to be revealed almost daily. Following its history of secrecy the church followed a policy that allowed these abuses to continue until the beginning of the 21st. Century.  If anyone wants to understand why the church chose this position they will quickly discover how the church from the second century onward have repeatedly disparaged sex in all its human forms as dirty, sinful, unclean, and even un- natural.  More importantly the man made church wanted to portray itself as the very image of Christ – pure and without blemish or sin.  

Today authors such as David Gibson ‘The Rule of Benedict’ (2006), Richard P. McBrien, ‘The Church – The Evolution of Catholicism’ (2008), Jason Barry & Gerald Renner, ‘Vows or Silence’ (2004) and many others are beginning to reveal the abuse of power in the Papacy of John Paul II as well as Benedict XVI. For more details involving JPII read the following 1962 Vatican document Crimen Sollicitationis (PDF) file:

It wasn't until 2001, after a sexual abuse scandal had rocked the Catholic Church in the US, that Cardinal Ratzinger took action. He decreed that the local churches now had to report all such suspected cases to his offices of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome -- but under strict secrecy.  It was not until April 2010 that the Vatican finally issued guidelines dictating that "Civil law concerning reporting of crimes... should always be followed but it does not require the reporting of "allegations" or crimes where reporting is not required by law.

This policy of Vatican secrecy brought British author Geoffrey Robertson, QC to publish his book ‘The Case of the Pope” (2010), which directly accuses Benedict of being accountable for numerous Human Rights abuses. Robertson argues that . . . . .
“there is no doubt that the scale of the sex abuse scandal came about because of directives from the Vatican — specifically from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) — which required all sex abuse complaints to be processed in utter secrecy and withheld from local police and courts, under a Canon Law that was obsolete and ineffective and non-punitive. The Holy See claims the right to operate the system as one of its 'statehood' privileges, along with the exclusive right to speak and lobby at the UN to promote its theo­logical agenda: homosexuality is 'evil', and so is divorce; women have no right to choose, even to avoid pregnancies that result from rape or incest; IVF is wrong because it begins with masturbation; condom use, even to avoid AIDS within marriage, must never be counten­anced. The political power associated with statehood has proved beguiling for a Pope who, as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, was the Pre­fect (head) of the CDF from 1981 to 2005 and it was on his watch that a vast amount of the sex abuse took place. How much he knew of its extent, and how offenders were moved around parishes and trafficked to other countries and hidden from local criminal justice, will not be clear until the CDF is required to open its files, although enough evidence has emerged to make his moral responsibility — and that of John Paul II — a matter for anxious debate. His legal responsibility is complicated by his claim to sovereign immunity, but it is surely worth asking, at a time when Benedict XVI has set his face against essential reform, whether the Pope should be the one man left in the world who is above the law”.
Finally, to accuse a Pope of wrongdoing is without question a very serious thing. We may never know why Benedict felt it was necessary to apply such secrecy around sexual abuse scandal.  Perhaps it was inherited through the unbending influence of church history, or political pressure from the Roman Curia or simply the accumulation of so many controversial issues facing an already aging Pope.  Speaking to his Cardinals in his final audience concerning his retirement Benedict is quoted as saying   "Among you is also the future pope, whom I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience,"


In addition to the books l have mentioned in this blog, I also recommend the following links and references:

Wikipedia: Curial response to Catholic sex abuse cases -

Spiegel Online, Sex Abuse Scandal: Did Archbishop Ratzinger Help Shield Perpetrator from Prosecution?

Celibacy, Sex and the Catholic Church,

Thomas C. Fox, Sexuality and Catholicism (1995)

Thomas P. Doyle, AW.R. Sipe, Patrick J. Wall, Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes – The Catholic Church’s Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse (2006)

More on this topic from this week’s issue of The Tablet

Reform dominates the agenda - from the Editor's desk 
It would be entirely understandable if Benedict XVI wanted “business as usual” signs to go up at the Vatican as soon as possible after his retirement, and for the new man in charge to carry on the good work of the old though perhaps with extra energy. What is emerging is something rather different – a growing groundswell of conviction, apparently at all levels in the Catholic Church, that things cannot go on as they are. Read more .  .    

Benedict's resignation looks more like a change of seat in the boardroom: Michael Knowles, guest contributor
Right or wrong, the truth is I can barely contain my concern at one thing above all else that is going on in Rome: Benedict XVI's plans for the period of his retirement now that he has resigned. I find them incredibly insensitive and inconsiderate, even - let me say it - arrogant; and also wide open to being very harmfully divisive. I know we are not supposed to say such things, let alone publicise them, but the truth is, with every other Catholic I speak to about them, it is exactly the same. The Catholic Church is my Church as much as Benedict's. Read more

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