They could always turn themselves in

Cardinal George Pell was given column inches in The Australian to defend “man of immense compassion and goodness”, Pope Benedict XVI, yesterday. It’s sickening stuff, watching Pell bend over backwards, forwards and every which way to defend the hierarchy in the Catholic Church from its complicity in covering up the crimes committed by pedophiles. (Sometimes I wonder why the church doesn’t just rename itself the Pedophile Protection Society. That seems to be its main function these days.)

Among the usual claims about the church and its practices, Pell makes this statement.

When complaints are made under these procedures, often dating back decades, victims are always encouraged to go to the police. That is what we would prefer. But victims often value their privacy. This issue is too sad and too serious for misinformation to be circulated, adding to victims’ pain.

I smell a large rat.

When a crime is committed against another person, there are at least two people who know about it. There is the victim, and there is the perpetrator. The victim IS NOT the only person who can go to the police. There is absolutely nothing to prevent a priest who has admitted abusing children from going to the police himself, confessing his crimes, and asking for the judgement of the court. All of this can be done without revealing the victim’s name, at all, and without even needing to put a victim on a stand. After all, if a priest confesses to his crimes, then there is no need to cross-examine the other witness(es), to determine the truth of the matter. Simple affidavits would do.

And that’s what the Catholic church tells other perpetrators they should do.

When I was preparing for my first confession, and first holy communion, I was given a great deal of instruction about the nature of confession, and god’s forgiveness of my sins (as if a tiny child can sin!), provided that I was contrite. The nuns and priests filled us with tales about the need for genuine contrition, but also, at the same time, that god could and would forgive the greatest of sins, even murder.

But.

For those great crimes, priests would withhold absolution, until the perpetrator had gone and confessed his or her crime to the police, and subjected themselves to the process of the law of the state. “Yes,” the priest would say. “I will pronounce absolution for your sins, but first, you must surrender yourself to the police. When you have done that, I will come and pronounce absolution.”

Pious cant, no doubt. But pious cant that was spoonfed to young children, as something that applied to all members of the church.

Except, it seems, the priesthood. Evidently none of them have to turn themselves in to the local police in order to receive absolution.

I will believe that Benedict is genuinely concerned about child abuse, genuinely concerned about right the wrongs done by men who pretend to be holy and good, genuinely concerned to follow the law of the land (Pell’s words), when he directs all priests who have been found to abuse children, by the church’s own procedures, to go directly to the police. Until then, it’s just more obfuscatory cant.

Perhaps the first step could be to require Cardinal Law to leave the Vatican, and return to the United States.

And unfortunately for Pell, and his trusting belief in the sanctity and goodness of the (alleged) holy father, it’s starting to look very much as though the smoking gun linking Benedict directly to cover ups has appeared: Warned About Abuse, Vatican Failed to Defrock Priest.

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.

To date, Benedict’s defenders have claimed that he really just didn’t know that a priest in his diocese had simply been moved on to another parish. That seems incredibly unlikely, but it might just be possible (‘though as I have said before, if you believe that, then I’ve got a rather nice painted ceiling in a spiffy basilica in Rome to sell to you). But this time, letters were sent directly to him about abuse committed against boys at a school for the deaf by an American priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy. The priest was “moved on”, and later on, when a secret church process against him was started, it was stopped…

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.

If you believe that Ratzinger himself did not order the cessation, if you believe that Ratzinger himself was not complicit in the cover up, if you believe that he is “a man of immense compassion and goodness”, then I say that you are so wrong that it is hard to find words to describe your gullibility and sheer foolishness. And if you happen to be Cardinal Pell, then I question whether you have any moral authority left. And I certainly question why The Australian, or any other newspaper, should be giving you space to mouth your increasingly flimsy and silly excuses for Ratzinger’s behaviour.

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14 responses to “They could always turn themselves in

  1. And Pell was in charge of an important church school in Ballarat, and there was abuse going on on his watch.

    Shoulda seen (and heard) him dodging, weaving and weaseling about that.

  2. Not having been raised Catholic myself, I had not known that about

    For those great crimes, priests would withhold absolution, until the perpetrator had gone and confessed his or her crime to the police, and subjected themselves to the process of the law of the state. “Yes,” the priest would say. “I will pronounce absolution for your sins, but first, you must surrender yourself to the police. When you have done that, I will come and pronounce absolution.”

    That is a very high level of ethics for the Catholic Church to advocate, and it really contrasts with the low cowardice they display when one some of their own commit crimes.

  3. …and yet the Catholic Church has never had any problems whatsoever with punishing girls for simply nonconforming (I’m thinking of The Magdalene Sisters here).

  4. Yes. ‘though bear in mind that this was just what the nuns trotted out. How close a resemblance it bore to actual church doctrine is debatable.

    Even so, you would think that someone who was genuinely contrite would stand up and take his lumps, instead of skulking in the Vatican.

  5. I saw this this morning and thought of your writings on the matter:
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/blogs/opinion/cartoons/1251886/Tom-Scott

  6. The Vatican is strongly defending itself on this. The message is clear, it hasn’t repented and will happily do it all again.

  7. On the other hand, what exercise would Pell get if he didn’t twist, turn, bend and spin with all his might and main?

    The Ballarat scandal was at least 15 years ago, and the son of friends was attending, but not victimised. This is how we heard a LOT that was not in the news. And explains why Melbourne was so glad to see the Pellster promoted to poor old Sydney…………..

  8. Three half formed thoughts…..

    1/ There must be a point where covering up an offence moves from being an accessory after the fact to being complicit to being an actual party to that offence.

    2/ The “It wasn’t me, I didn’t know, I was only following orders” defence didn’t work at Neurenberg…

    3/ And where does the Church get off thinking that their minions are not subject to the same laws and regulations as the rest of us whatever jurisdiction they happen to be in.

    Prehaps someone with a greater knowledge of history and the law can fill my thoughts out.

  9. For those great crimes, priests would withhold absolution, until the perpetrator had gone and confessed his or her crime to the police, and subjected themselves to the process of the law of the state. “Yes,” the priest would say. “I will pronounce absolution for your sins, but first, you must surrender yourself to the police. When you have done that, I will come and pronounce absolution.”

    This is — as far as I’m aware — doctrinal, but it has always been weaker than it might otherwise be.

    One of the early pagan criticisms of Christianity (before it was ‘Catholic’ as such) involved its notions of forgiveness. To a pagan Roman, you only got clementia (always represented as a Goddess) for a criminal offence once you had paid your debt to society. The idea of someone being ‘forgiven’ independently of repaying the debt was anathema and even immoral.

  10. And ‘der Ratzinger’ may very well be the most noble and virtuous bloke in the world, ever, but ::

    ‘All it takes for EVIL to flourish, is for GOOD men (and women) to do nothing’

    He did less than ‘nothing’, he sheltered the b……d.

    And yes, I believe that is called ‘being an accessory after the fact’. A criminal offence.

  11. George Pell never fails to infuriate me. Just seeing his name in print or his face in the paper causes the fury to rise inside me. The Catholic Church has a hell of a lot to answer for.

  12. To date, Benedict’s defenders have claimed that he really just didn’t know that a priest in his diocese had simply been moved on to another parish. That seems incredibly unlikely, but it might just be possible.

    Um, no it’s not possible. And if it is, then then-Archbishop Ratzinger was magisterially incompetent and derelict in his fundamental duty of pastoral care and stewardship.

    I can get how in the spin cycle, being an incompetent fool is better than all the other alternatives, but I wouldn’t buy this crap from a politician or corporate CEO. Not swallowing it now.

  13. @Craig Ranapia

    I think it is likely that then Archbishop Ratzinger wasn’t a perfect fit for pastoral and administrative care of a diocese. John L Allen’s article speaks of a “letter of protest [from priests in the diocese], among other things claiming that while Ratzinger had been their shepherd, they had virtually no contact or dialogue with him. ” And that the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising is massive compared to other dioceses. It also had three auxiliary bishops, it was Bishop Heinrich von Soden-Fraunhofen who dealt with Hullerman’s psychiatrist and by all accounts didn’t listen to his advice.

    I think it’s feasible Ratzinger didn’t know, but he should have as Archbishop.

    http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/will-ratzingers-past-trump-benedicts-present

    Further in the article Allen details a “conversion” experience of Ratzinger’s when head of the CDF and how he instituted a new attitude to sexual abuse by priests.

    “In the complex world of court politics at the Vatican, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith became the beachhead for an aggressive response to the sexual abuse crisis. Ratzinger and his deputies sometimes squared off against other departments which regarded the “zero tolerance” policy as an over-reaction, not to mention a distortion of the church’s centuries-long canonical tradition, in which punishments are supposed to fit the crime, and in which tremendous discretion is usually left in the hands of bishops and other superiors to mete out discipline.”

  14. Great to read your posts. Yes I’m ex Catholic etc etc etc too. I had to deal with the Jesuits about sexual grooming from a priest while I was at school, and they put up a very legalistic process that met no satisfaction, the best probably being that the guy is now dead. How many kids he would have damaged is unknown. The courts, criminal charges and reparatory payments by the church is the only way to go, it would be for any other organisation. Ben