By Brian Mark Hennessey
The Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who is assisting in drafting the final document of the ongoing Synod of Bishops, says that he believes that the Pope is inclined to entrust more authority to the regional Conferences of Bishops. He gave three examples of matters that could be outsourced from the Vatican – and one of those was clerical sexual abuse – currently dealt with in house by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith!
It is reported in the National Catholic Reporter of 23rd October that Cardinal Gracias said in a press statement that it was “practically and logistically impossible to have one office in the Vatican in Rome dealing with all the cases of clerical sexual abuse in the world”. So – it seems, the administration of crimes of clerical sexual abuse may well be shunted back to the Bishops and Religious Superiors.
It was Pope John Paul II who originally, in modern times, determined in 2001 in his Motu Propio, “Sacramentorum Sanctiatus Tutela”, that, apart from sexual solicitations in the confessional, all allegations of sexual abuse by clerics should be dealt with by the local Bishops and Religious Superiors.
What a calamity that proved to be! The Bishops and Religious Superiors failed consistently and manifestly to take any action at all. The majority of allegations were ignored. Clerics committing sexual abuse were simply moved on to where they could abuse again and where often they could not be discovered by the very Victims whom they had abused. Contrary to Canon Law, the civil law enforcement and welfare agencies were not informed of allegations. No monitoring of the abusers was implemented. Inconsistency and denial reined.
It took decades of the clamour from the voices of Victims of clerical sexual abuse to get a response from the Catholic Church. That response was to ensure that Victims were heard (at least in theory – even if not in practice) – and eventually Victims were led to believe that this Pope cared – and he would lead the charge in Rome to rid the Church of this pestilence. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known more notoriously as the Papal States Inquisition, was to be the instrument of this root and branch revival.
Yet, it appears, there remains a vast difference between what Vatican says and Vatican does. Recent history relates that neither Bishops nor Religious Superiors gave in the past, nor give in the present, any heed whatsoever to Canon Law, nor Cardinal, nor Pope.
The Mirfield 12 group of sexually abused boy seminarians know very well that nothing has factually changed despite all the virtuous statements. Their only experience has been one of empty promises, silence, ignorance and false accusations of being money-grabbing liars.
So the Vatican experiment in dealing with all the world’s cases of sexual abuse with care, compassion, consistency and rigour may well be over. They have been defeated, it seems, by the huge scale of this criminal activity within church and cloister. What an unintended admission of Cardinal Gracias!
So what now? It seems that the Vatican may well take the opportunity of deflecting criticism of their failed management of clerical sexual abuse by shunting it back to the hoards of corrupt bishops who failed to manage the problem before.
Their is a better solution! Whilst clerical sexual abuse, particularly of minors, may be a “sin” – it is a breach of trust at the highest end of the scale. It is also one of the cruellest, most callous, heinous and abhorrent civil criminal offences known to mankind. Let the Catholic Church do what any other world organisation would do. Let them:
1. Inform the Civil Law authority of the allegation immediately it is received.
2. Suspend the alleged cleric from all duties immediately.
3. Insist that all investigation is undertaken by the Civil authority and make the cleric available promptly.
4. Provide to the Civil authority all pertinent documentation in their possession without delay or obfuscation.
5. Immediately respond to the results of any Court verdict of guilty by instant dismissal of the cleric from the clerical state.
No ifs. No buts! No dilly dallying. No compensation, nor farewell payments, nor pensions. The Catholic Church must meet out to convicted criminal clerics the same standard of punitive terminal measures and treatment that any convicted criminal civilian in the world could expect to receive from any organisation to which that convicted criminal formerly belonged. It really is that simple! Clerics who commit crimes of sexual abuse are criminals – not special cases. The Catholic Church must get real!