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Vatican watch 1

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Father Lombardi - missing the point

A lot of confusion and uncertainty and some stress around a new job I’m supposed to be starting and new duties I’m taking on has prevented me from engaging in this favourite activity of mine, so I’m feeling sorry and frustrated.

Right now I’m thoroughly pissed off with WordPress as I keep losing data that I’ve drafted into a post and having to redo it all. It’s probably all due to my incompetence of course.

So, onto the post. I’ve long been concerned about the Vatican’s handling of child abuse cases, and so I’m going to post occasional ‘Vatican watch’ pieces highlighting this ongoing issue.

For those who might think the Vatican, or the Catholic Church generally, has been unfairly targeted on this issue, which has undoubtedly been a problem for many institutions, both church and state, for decades, I would urge them to inform themselves further  on the Catholic hierarchy’s long-term approach, as highlighted in such very different books as Colm O’Gorman’s Beyond Belief [looking at the personal impacts of the Church’s ‘forgiving’ approach to paedophile priests] and Geoffrey Robertson’s The Case of the Pope, which draws our attention to the inadequacies of Canon Law in dealing with peodophile offences, and to the Vatican’s more or less absolute refusal to recognize those inadequacies, and to accept that Canon Law isn’t ‘god-given’ or superior to secular law. The evidence presented in these and other books, and in various reports into the RCC’s approach to this major problem, clearly show that the RCC, and its Vatican hierachy, is in a class of its own on dealing with sexual offences against children and young people by its employees.

The other day, Ireland’s Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, lashed out at the Vatican’s ‘cover-up’ mentality. He was speaking as a response to the release of the Coyne Report, which focused on the handling of sex abuse cases within the Cloyne diocese between 1996 and 2009. It was the fourth such report commissioned by the Irish government in recent years, and it was particularly damning because it covered a more recent period, when one would have thought that the massive adverse publicity of the last decade or so might have resulted in real changes in attitude and practice. The report revealed that the RCC had largely ignored its own revamped guidelines, issued in 1996, for dealing with sexual abuse cases. The bishop of Cloyne, one John Magee, has been a noted Vatican insider for decades. Here’s a brief summary from Wikipedia:

The Cloyne Report, published on 13 July 2011, found that former Bishop Magee had falsely told the Government and the HSE [Health and Safety Executive] in a previous inquiry that the diocese was reporting all allegations of clerical child sexual abuse to the civil authorities. He gave his second-in-command Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan, who admits he was more concerned with the plight of abusive priests than victims, a free hand to defy an edict to report all accusations.

Both Bishop Magee and the Monsignor, the vicar general in Cloyne, refused to co-operate with a Garda [Irish police] inquiry into abuse in 2006.

Currently, the Irish government is awaiting a Vatican response to the report before taking further action. It has also introduced new mandatory reporting legislation – designed, it seems, to override, the old notion of the Catholic church confessional as sacrosanct.

Apparently there has been an unofficial Vatican response already. Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, has come out with the usual expressions of regret and claims of recent reform[!], as well as reiterating Vatican concerns that the mandatory reporting of abuse accusations to civil authorities “gives rise to serious concerns of both a moral and a canonical nature.” Only the Vatican could try to argue that there are circumstances in which reporting sexual offences to the police would be immoral. 

Lombardi also referred at length to the controversial 1997 letter to the Irish bishops from the apostolic nuncio of the time. This letter was roundly criticized in the Coyne Report. Lombardi’s defense of the letter is slippery and technical, referring to the ‘universality’ of canon law, and the fact that civil ‘norms’ were not at that time enshrined in law. Unsurprisingly, the response of One in Four, the support organisation for victims of Catholic sexual abuse, is one of exasperation rather than outrage. Now it’s just a matter of getting the laws in place so that RCC cannot apply canon law in the future. A situation that needs to be resolved worldwide, wherever there is the slightest ambiguity on the matter of precedence.

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Written by stewart henderson

July 29, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Posted in religion

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