FOLLOWING THE MONEY IS THE KEY TO AUTHORITY
IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
By Brian Mark Hennessy.
In an extraordinary “to and fro” at a session on 23rd June 2017 of the Scottish Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse that had taken place at the Benedictine Fort Augustus Abbey, Dom Richard Yeo, on behalf of the Benedictine Confederation, mustered somewhat miserable attempts to fend off any possible hint of accountability by members of the current Benedictine hierarchy for any of the gross failures that had occurred historically at the Abbey. Indeed, the situation is complicated by the fact that every Benedictine Abbey is totally independent and has its own Abbot President. An Abbot Primate of all the independent Benedictine Abbeys is elected every four years but his powers of oversight are very limited as he has no direct jurisdiction over the Abbot Presidents.
Ultimately, Dom Yeo denied that even the Pope himself had any responsibility for the affairs of the Abbey and hence, none other than the Abbot of Fort Augustus at the time of the abuse had accountability whatsoever for Child Protection in that establishment. The revelations from some 50 former pupils of the Abbey were that Fort Augustus was used as a “dumping ground” for clergy previously accused of abuse elsewhere. The four most recent Abbots before closure in 1998 were Dom Oswald Eaves, Dom Celestine Howarth, Dom Nicholas Holman and Dom Mark Dilworth. A dozen Benedictine Monks and lay teachers of the Benedictines in the United Kingdom have been accused or convicted of the abuse of pupils of their United Kingdom monastery school establishments.
The structure of the Catholic Church, admittedly, is difficult to understand for anyone other than a well informed Vatican Watcher or Canonist. The casual spectator of the Catholic Church will be easily confused, for although like any other organisation the Catholic Church has, in essence, a top to bottom structure, it is also important to understand that the structure varies in pattern according to the authority, scope and purpose of each formation within it that is scrutinised.
Nevertheless, there is a “key” to understanding each of those seemingly impenetrable structures within the Church and the unique application of authority within each of the separate branches of the overall Hierarchical Structures. Quite simply, to penetrate the complexities of the many titled ranks and the names of their formations there is one guiding principle – and that is the proverbial, good old adage: “Follow the Money”!
Thus, whilst there may appear to be a confusing and colourful kaleidoscope of the channels of authority, indeed there are not. To see clearly, we just need to strip away the candles, vestments, bells, incense and mitres of the peculiar and unique structure of the Catholic Church. Quite simply, hand in hand with that traditional theatre of the Church celebrations and the moral teachings of the Scriptures are the common administrative offices, procedures and controls that can be found in any other institution for the control of money, property, inventories of valuables, investments and other assets.
To be economical with my explanation, the three main ecclesiastical branches of the Catholic Church that are likely to come under scrutiny at the UK Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual abuse (IICSA), which is also in current process alongside the Scottish Inquiry, are the structures of (1) Dioceses run by the Bishops, (2) the Institutes of Consecrated Life with Abbots and Abbesses at their head and (3) the Religious Institutes of the Missionary, Teaching, Medical and other charitable Foundations. There is a key word within all these structures that defines authority – and that word is “ordinary”. Quite simply, that word denotes a person that has the right to exercise “jurisdiction” to a specific degree and of a specific nature over any institution at any level within the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church is an institution much the same as any other and its structure is that of a pyramid. All authority is invested in the Pope and is derived from him. It has a set of laws that govern both the moral and temporal structure of the Church at every level. Those laws have been derived from the historical pronouncements of the Church Councils that date back to Constantinople in the 4th Century. The Catholic Church has a “product” called “morality” which it claims to be inspired from sacred texts known as the Old and New Testaments. The rights of children have a biblical setting in the Gospels of the New Testament when Christ said, “Suffer not little children to come unto me”. There is an imperative in that statement that implies that children are to be both cherished and protected. Thus, in the context of the safeguarding of children it can be categorically stated that:
The Pope, the “Supreme” Ordinary of the Catholic Church, through his subordinate Ordinaries – who extend to the level of Bishops, Abbots of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Superior Generals and Provincial Superiors of the Religious Institutes of the Catholic Church – is obligated to teach the morality exemplified in Scriptures, ensure that safeguards are in place for the protection of children, monitor adherence to safeguarding practices and bring non-compliant clerics to account.
At the recent IICSA hearing regarding abuse at Fort Augustus the following questions and answers took place between Counsel and Dom Richard Yeo. When the latter was asked about accountability, he responded:
A. “The English Benedictine Congregation had no authority over or involvement in either school. It is not the relevant organisation in respect of the schools as establishments. It has no remit or authority to acknowledge or accept abuse on behalf of the former Fort Augustus Abbey.”
Q. Just on that, that’s the position you adopt, is it? You don’t see that you, as the Abbot President, has a remit or authority to acknowledge or accept abuse?
A. I have – I can say on my own account personally that I am sorry about any abuse that has happened, but obviously I cannot speak for the school.
Q. Who can?
A. Nobody – and that is why I insisted that I wanted to say sorry myself because Fort Augustus is closed.
Q. Yes, but who can be held accountable for any abuse that occurred at Fort Augustus or (for the offences of) Carle Kemp?
A. Since the monastery has been closed I don’t see how anybody can be.
Q. What about the Holy See? I think we have accepted that the Holy See had ultimate responsibility.
A. Ultimate responsibility but not ultimate control.
Q. Or ultimate accountability. What you are saying is that because the monastery has closed, the Catholic Church cannot be held accountable, and that’s what I’m seeking to test with you.
A. I think I said publicly at a fairly early stage that the great problem with all this is that Fort Augustus is closed down and that must mean that the redress that any survivors of abuse can have is going to be limited. It is for that reason, as I say, that I felt it important to express my own sorrow about abuse but I cannot do that on behalf (of others). I can do that myself but I can’t do it as a representative of the organisation which was responsible.
Q. But what I’m seeking to explore with you, Dom Yeo, is whether there is someone within the Catholic Church who can provide the victims and survivors with that sort of apology in a more, if I can put it in this way, in a more responsible category?
A. I think that because Fort Augustus is closed, I’m the only person who can do that.
Q. Not even the Pope?
A. The Pope has expressed his sorrow that abuse has happened.
A. — but you cannot say that the Pope was responsible for it”.
That was the wrong answer. All roads in the Catholic Church do lead to Rome. The Pope is the “Supreme” Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Church and he has both moral and temporal administrative obligations. The buck does stop with the Pope and he must own it when all else fails! Dom Richard Yeo was categorically wrong when he replied that it does not and that a mere expression of sorrow from him will have to do! For the benefit of Dom Richard Yeo, I have constructed the following from Canon Law and other RCC Vatican sources for both his use and that of those representing abused children by clerics of the Catholic Church:
The Pope. The Pope is the “Ordinary” over the entire Catholic Church. The “buck” really does stop there! (Ref: Conc. Vatic., Const. “Pastor Aeturnus”, c.iii).In a period of interregnum following the death of a Pope and the election of a successor, the Cardinal “Carmelengo” in conjunction with the College of Cardinals assumes the role of Papal Supreme Ordinary. The Vatican Secretary of State, Prefects of the Vatican Curia Congregations and other Appointees to Pontifical Commissions and Intercasterial Commissions derive all the temporary authority they exercise as “delegated authority” directly from the Papal Supreme Ordinary.
The Chain of Command at the Vatican: Prefects of the Curia Congregations and Heads of the Pontifical Commissions and the Vatican Secretary of State with “Delegated” authority > The Carmelengo and College of Cardinals with “Delegated” Ordinary authority (“in absentia”) > Pope (the “Supreme” Ordinary of the Catholic Church).
The Diocesan Bishops There is often confusion about the title of “Bishop”, but in essence a Cardinal Archbishop, Archbishop, and Bishop are one and the same thing wherever they are located. They are all simply Bishops, as is the Pope himself, and they are the “ordinary judges” of the dioceses to which they are allocated. Their authority, which is both juridicial and territorial, is considered to be ordained by the Holy Spirit in the Acts (New Testament Acts of the Apostles 20:28). A Vicar Capitular or Vicar General assume the role of a Diocesan Bishop in an “inter regnum” period or other absence of a Bishop. Diocesan Auxiliary Bishops derive all temporary authority they exercise as “delegated authority” directly from the Diocesan Bishop. Parish Priests are not “ordinaries” and have no juridical or territorial authority.
Diocesan Bishops are appointed directly by the Pope following recommendations made by the Papal Legate of the specific country to which the new Bishop will be assigned. A Committee within the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy determines the final recommendations directly to the Pope for his consideration and subsequent appointment.
Diocesan Bishops are within their right (Canon 579) to establish an institute of Consecrated Life within their diocese by a formal decree, provided that they have consulted the Apostolic See – and the Bishop retains direct authority over such an institute, but will appoint a local superior “ordinary” with local “delegated” rights to manage the members of the institute in the “judicial” context. However, only the Pope can suppress an institute of Consecrated Life and the Apostolic See will make all decisions regarding disposal of the temporal goods of the suppressed institute.
Chain of Command of Diocesan Bishops: Local Ordinaries of Diocesan Institutes of Consecrated Life with “Delegated” authority from the Bishop > (Vicar General – “Ordinary in absentia”) > Bishop (“Juridical” and “Territorial” Ordinary) > Pope (“Supreme” Ordinary).
The Institutes of Consecrated Life The Pope in the Apostolic See is able to erect an institute of Consecrated Life, (such as the Benedictines), and individual members (clerics, lay brothers or sisters) are bound to obey the Pope as their highest superior by their sacred bond of obedience. The Superior (Abbot or Abbess) of an institute of Consecrated Life will convene a Chapter to advise and disseminate authority throughout the community. Only the Pope can suppress such an institute of Consecrated Life and he will also dispose of all the temporal goods of a suppressed institute. (Canons 589-591). The Abbot/Abbess is elected by the Chapter who will also advise and counsel the Abbot/Abbess.
Chain of Command of Institutes of Consecrated Life: Chapter (with “delegated authority”) > Abbot/Abbess (“Juridical” and “Territorial” Ordinary) > Pope (“Supreme” Ordinary).
Religious Institutes A Religious Institute (such as the Comboni Missionaries) is a society of clerics, lay brothers or sisters in which members, according to a proper law, pronounce public vows, either perpetual or temporary which are to be renewed when the period of time has elapsed. They lead a life in common. (See Canons 607 – 608). The Rule of a Religious Institute is approved by the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
Religious Institutes require the authority of the diocesan Bishop to establish a house within a diocesan location (Canons 609-611), but the Religious Institutes are, nevertheless, autonomous. The Religious Institute’s Provincial Superior of the country or other defined geographical location is the Provincial Ordinary within that country or location and the Provincial reports to the Superior General who is the Ordinary of the Religious Institute.
The Superior General / Sister General is elected by members of the Institute’s Curia, Provincial Superiors and other nominated members in accordance with its constitution. A Vicar General and Council are also appointed.
Chain of Command of Religious Institutes: Local Ordinary Superior of a community with “Delegated” authority only from the Provincial Superior > Provincial Superior (Provincial “Juridical” Ordinary) > (Vicar General “in absentia”) > General Superior / Sister General (“Juridical” Ordinary) > Pope (“Supreme” Ordinary).