On the Papal Tribunal
This is the biggest non-story in the history of the clergy child sex abuse scandal.
Read the headline and then read the whole story.
The headline proclaims that Pope Francis has created an abuse tribunal for cases of bishop’s negligence.
First, it should be noted a bishop does not “negligently” cover up heinous crimes committed by priests against innocent children. A bishop’s actions in covering up crimes are “intentional” actions, not “negligent” actions.
The body of the article that explains the headline is inaccurate.
The pope has authorized the formation of a tribunal. No tribunal has been formed.
Much more importantly, the tribunal to be formed has been given no substantive guidelines to be employed in reviewing a case of any bishop or how the case would be brought before the tribunal or what kind of punishment would be authorized by the tribunal.
The formation of the tribunal was a recommendation of the Vatican commission on child protection, the group studying clergy sex abuse.
The man the pope selected to head the commission, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who is the pope’s roommate in the papal apartment when he is in Rome is himself a bishop who has for over ten years refused to divulge the identity of a number of priests in Boston against whom credible abuse complaints were brought, and thus one wonders whether this close friend of the pope should be a bishop in line to receive punitive measures like removal from office.
If one goes to bishop-accountability.org @ http://www.bishop-accountability.org/resources/resource-files/databases/DallasMorningNewsBishops.htm one will access on this website the names of 114 American bishops who are guilty of covering up clergy sex abuse and the note of documentary proof that exists for each bishop’s lapses.
Priests sexually abuse children and Bishops are equally guilty in that they enable and empower the criminal clerics and cover up their crimes.
In monitoring the crisis and scandal for over 30 years all over the world I am only convinced of the innocence of two bishops worldwide.
Yes, almost every bishop at some point in his ecclesiastical career has either been guilty or had guilty knowledge of the cover up of clergy sex abuse crimes.
The very pool of men available for appointment to this Vatican tribunal, if they are to come from Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as this article implies, will be coming from the very office that has had all authority and responsibility for clergy sex abuse from the beginning and has been the Vatican office that covered up crimes at the highest level of the Roman Catholic Church.
Not once, not a single time, has the Vatican acted to discipline a bishop for mishandling cases of clergy sex abuse, and with the coming appointment of this tribunal, there is not even a hit about what powers the tribunal may have to mete out discipline, if any, against a bishop.
Already, it seems the Vatican is doing what it does best, back peddling from a broad pronouncement as, according to this article, they are thinking about instituting a Vatican Statute of Limitations, forgiving bishops who covered up crimes past a certain artificial time barrier – five years? ten years? fifteen years? twenty years? thirty years?
This notion of allowing bishops to escape discipline simply because their proven actions occurred in the past is repugnant and flies into the face of common decency, common sense, every moral and ethical standard known to man, and violates the teachings and examples of Christ’s life from which the institution claims its moral authority.
Is it not bad enough that secular law, man’s law, prohibits prosecution of a priest who has raped an innocent child if the rape happened in the past, a time beyond the statute of limitations.
In the Bible at Luke 17:2 is states one is better to have a stone tied around his neck and be tossed in the sea than harm the souls of the little ones.
In Christ’s teachings, in God’s law, in the true spirit of what the Roman Catholic Church purports to embrace in regard to what is just, each person, even bishops and other members of the hierarchy are to be held accountable for their actions that have harmed the little ones, the innocents, without any regard to time limitations.
The damage done to victims of child abuse never expires, their suffering never ends. There is no magic date when the wounds heal over. It does not happen.
The consequences of the actions of members of the church hierarchy that contributed to the damage or destruction of children caused by the intentional or negligent actions of bishops, archbishops, or cardinals should never expire either.
These are crimes against humanity that are involved and the international standard of justice established in Germany in the 1940’s does not allow any statue of limitations on such crimes. Today, their are men in the nineties on trial in Germany, and very old men are on trial in Cambodia as well, for the world recognizes there such never be any law, regulation or procedure to protect men guilty of crimes against humanity.
The article below correctly points out that in the view of leaders of organizations like SNAP and their director, David Clohessy, and administrators of Bishops Accountability.Org. referenced above, that this may be a possible positive development, but only time will tell whether this amounts to adding more bureaucracy in the Vatican to paper over matters relating to clergy sex abuse in an attempt to placate the world with yet another grand PR move, i.e. having a tribunal drag its feet for years, even decades, without acting punitively against bishops in a matter commensurate with their crimes against children.
Pope Francis’ commission should have recommended a body of articles to the pope that clearly addressed how these cases were to be brought before the tribunal, what evidentiary procedures the tribunal would adhere to, what punitive measures would or could be instituted against bishops by the tribunal, and the pope should have sent this body of work as his charge and selected and installed the commission forthwith.
One thing is certain. There are organizations like SNAP and Bishop-Accountability.Org. who have the documentary proof in their hands that proves hundreds of bishops, archbishops and cardinals in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia, Germany, Poland, Austria, Belgium, England, Scotland, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland, Mexico and all Latin American countries, Scandinavian countries, Malta, Puerto Rico, and other countries are bishops, archbishops, and cardinals have committed actions that should cause their removal from not only their positions, but also the priesthood.
When the tribunal is formed it should immediately make a call to any and all persons having evidence relating to bishops mishandling abuse cases to come forward and present their evidence.
For example, a cursory examination of court documents in Milwaukee, Wisconsin provides evidence that the most prominent American prelate, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, while acting as Archbishop of Milwaukee not only transferred over $50 million dollars (with Vatican approval) from the archdiocesan general fund to a specially newly created “Cemetery Maintenance Trust Fund” in order to deprive victims of those funds in bankruptcy proceedings, but he also dealt with priests guilty of child sex abuse by handing them $20,000 (a bonus? a severance package?) and advising them to leave the legal jurisdiction.
Cardinal Dolan admits he did these things (he cannot deny these things as the pertinent documents in the court record bear his signature).
Cardinal Dolan is obviously a bishop who deserves the strongest possible punishment.
Cardinal Dolan is also one who bragged following the election of Pope Francis that he had sat with him for every meal during the conclave.
Will this Vatican tribunal act punitively toward Cardinal Dolan? It will snow in Rome in August before something like this happens.
This headline grabbing story is not only sinister. It is also sad, for it is providing victims around the world with hope that the men who are really responsible for this child sex abuse crisis and scandal will be punished, and in all probability that’s not going to happen as in all probability the tribunal “investigations” of bishops, archbishops and cardinals will last years until the wrongdoers are retired and then the tribunal will give them a pass.
One of the worst abusers in history, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the infamous Legion Of Christ, had written complaints on record dating back to 1945 but was only told by Pope Benedict XVI to live the rest of his life (in luxurious surroundings) privately in prayer and penance.
Cardinal Roger Mahony Los Angeles when his archdiocese paid out over $660 million in settlements that represented the wholesale rape of girls and boys on his watch, received only a perfunctory tap on the wrist by his successor, so obviously a PR move that it was laughable. Yet documents released by a court showed he had personally directed a conspiracy to obstruct justice dating to the 1980’s.
The Vatican’s idea of punishment is a great odds with the ideas of victims, the United Nations that has twice condemned the Vatican following long investigations of worldwide clergy abuse, and Amnesty International that placed the Vatican on the list of countries guilty of crimes against humanity.
The only really positive thing about this story is that it reinforces that possibly that a page may finally be slowly turning as even the church’s focus like that of victims, their lawyers, prosecutors and press, is where it should have been from the first day over 30 years ago – on the hierarchy who covered up and facilitated crimes.
This does not in any way signal and end of this crisis and scandal, but rather the true beginning, the first chapter, for it has taken 30 long years of untiring commitment of thousands of people to bring this to a point where those responsible may be made accountable in some way.