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There is a great article on the opulent lifestyles of the “princes of the church”. The Lavish Homes of American Archbishops is running on the CNN website.
Funny, they keep saying that they are bankrupt and that there are no resources for the victims of sexual crimes committed by their clergy! They complain that people like me are just looking for an easy payday. And yet, they will spend parishioners’ donations to live in splendor. Makes you wonder where the hierarchy of the church lost its way!
While glancing at my WordPress.com dashboard I noticed that this will be my 200th post on this blog. I am amazed I have stuck to it this long, although my posts have been less frequent as events in my personal life demand my attention. For this post I am beginning a series on the Catholic playbook. These are the strategies that the Church and its apologists use to downplay the sex crisis that continues to play out around the world. I have been keeping notes over the last five years on reactions to media stories, blogs similar to mine and message boards. There are too many to do in one sitting so I will try to do them in installments. I think you can safely say that these strategies are employed by any organization that takes a risk management approach of covering up and denying instead of being proactive and forthright. The RCC has been using these tactics for centuries. (That’s right, this sex crisis is not the result of Vatican II as the very conservative zealots will have you believe).
Here is installment 1 of the RCC Hierarchy Playbook:
It is in use again. The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) hierarchy is pulling out their playbook on how to spin their position on the myriad of crises in which the church is embroiled. The good old boy network has been fostering corruption, scandal and criminal activity for centuries. Why would it be any different in the 21st century.
In the wake of the conviction of Monsignor Lynn in Philadelphia, the hierarchy’s public relations goon squads are trying to minimize damage in the media, isolate other potential “crisis hotspots”, and brainwash “the faithful” that all is well and that the one holy catholic and apostolic church is on solid footing, just as St. Peter placed it. You can keep coming to church and filling the collection plates.
The playbook is predictable and predatory. It can be broken down into several broad categories. We start with: ( I shouldn’t have to say this but… sarcasm runs amock in this post). (If you are a Diocesan Spokesperson, try to keep up, I try use a lot of one syllable words, if you get confused you can use the google machine.)
Paint the Victim as a Predator
1. Victims are only looking for money! Greed is one of the deadly sins. The hierarchy of the church must have people believe that the victim of sexual crimes committed by priests, nuns or lay representatives are only out for a quick, large payday. Gloss over the damage done by the predators who enjoy the top cover of the church while targeting victims for their own pleasure, that is not relevant! Father “Fill in the Blank” is not called to account for his actions, crimes and deceptions. No, we can’t have that. Let’s go after the victim who has carried his/her great terrible secret of violation for years or decades. We lurk in the shadows for years for the opportunity to litigate and force the church to pay for sins it did not commit. The victim is the bad guy in his/her search for justice.
2. Victims will bankrupt us. Ignore the palaces, art work,massive princely mansions, the expensive cars, summer retreat spots, first class flights to Italy and land used to hide pedophiles in Catholic minimum security facilities. Ignore the vast resources of the Catholic Church worldwide. Wealth that is beyond the comprehension of most mortals is not to be considered. Cardinals and bishops have had the audacity to claim poverty in the face of claims that substantiate their complicity it protecting pedophiles in their attempt to protect the church from scandal. Dioceses have attempted to use this tactic in court but have failed. They will cry out that they have to close schools and parishes to pay for settlements and awards to victims of predators that they have shielded. Funny, it would seem that the best way to avoid scandal is to not create one! But I digress. Has it ever occurred to anyone in the hierarchy of the church that predator priests, by their actions and in total disregard for the good of the church, continue to prey on children and vulnerable adults and open that organization to scrutiny, penalty and sanction? Can I have a big “DUH” from the congregations?
3. Victims of sexual abuse are likely to be abuser as well. Make me the new monster! There is no proof of this, but the church and their apologists take this out for a spin on a regular basis. Paint me as the new threat to children and vulnerable adults! Once again the church needs you to suspend belief in the overwhelming evidence of institutional cover ups and re-victimization. Never mind that priests, nuns and lay members of the church have abused their positions of power and were given refuge, financial support and the institutional blessing of the church while victims were ostracized and painted as monsters. Urges, surely the victims have them and seek the same carnal pleasures that they were forced to comply with. Really?! Again, the church is lying to protect its treasure. It relies on the blind stupidity of the parishioners who believe everything they are told.
AND MY PERSONAL FAVORITE:
4. The Priest is only guilty of being seduced. No kidding! You would be amazed at the number of times this has been thrown at me by “Good Catholics” and priests. It was my fault that he raped me. I tempted him, I led him down the path to this. Let’s for a moment suspend belief in reality that sexual activity with a minor under the age of consent is, at a minimum, statutory rape. Let’s for a moment suspend the logical notion that children who have not gone through puberty are generally not sexual creatures. Let’s suspend belief that an adult man is unable to distinguish between right and wrong. These acts, in my specific case, were not tender, passionate acts. They were brutal, criminal acts that resulted in injuries to my person, my well-being, my psyche. They stole my innocence, my faith, my trust and my ability to deal with the everyday world around me. At age 13, I assure you, I did not seduce a priest. He raped me, repeatedly. They were acts of violence. Acts of intimidation, dominance and depravity. Anyone who can embrace the idea of a child seducing an adult in this manner has, in my opinion, a seriously flawed thought process.
The next installment will be: “There is nothing we can do about it”
If you want to add to the discussion, feel free to comment…
I am posting a brilliant article from an Irish website called The Post.IE by Vincent Browne. The article is another example of how clueless the hierarchy of the Catholic Church continues to be. It also lays out that the efforts to keep the activities of pedophile priests under wraps has been a long-established Vatican policy. For those who think that the pedophile scandal in the church is a by-product of Vatican II, here is further proof that the problem has a much longer institutional history.
The problems documented in Ireland are present in other Sees around the world. This is not an isolated problem, it is a universal problem with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church
The article, which appeared on 20 December 2009, is well worth the read:
Vatican guilty of unholy compassion for paedophiles
20 December 2009 By Vincent Browne
In 1922, the Vatican promulgated an instruction to do with what it called crimen solicitationis (the crime of solicitation within the confessional) and what it called the ‘‘worst crime’’ – the sexual abuse of children. The document was issued in Latin. No authoritative version was produced in English.
The document was circulated only to bishops and under terms of strict secrecy.
A new version of the guidelines was produced in 1962, but this, according to the Murphy Commission, was unknown within the Dublin diocese until some time in the 1990s.
Desmond Connell, the former archbishop, told the commission he had never seen the 1962 document, nor had he met anyone who had seen it.
John Dolan, the chancellor of the diocese and a monsignor, whose job is to ensure that the administrative records of the diocese are kept safe, said he didn’t know that ‘‘lurking in the very end, at the very back [of the decree crimen solicitationis], was a little paragraph on the ‘‘worst crime’’.
He was unaware of the 1962 document until an Australian bishop discovered towards the end of the 1990s that it was still valid. Until then, he did not know of any guidelines by the Vatican on the issue of clerical child sexual abuse.
The Murphy Commission commented on how ‘‘unusual’’ it was, ‘‘whereby a document setting out the procedure for dealing with clerical child sexual abuse was in existence but virtually no one knew about it or used it’’.
In 1996, victims of clerical abuse hounded the bishops into devising a ‘framework document’, setting out guidelines for dealing with allegations of abuse. John Dolan said: ‘‘They [the authors of the framework document] did not feel Rome was supporting them in dealing with this issue … they were meeting an onslaught of complaints, and Rome was pulling any particular solid ground that they had from under them’’.
The 1922 and 1962 Vatican instructions on dealing with allegations of clerical child sex abuse demanded absolute secrecy in the conduct of investigations. T he secrecy was so pervasive that, to some, it seemed to demand that the complaint also be kept secret from the state authorities.
Cannon 1341 states that the bishop is to ‘‘start a judicial administrative procedure, for the imposition or the declaration of penalties, only when he perceives that neither by fraternal correction nor reproof, nor by any methods of pastoral care, can the scandal be sufficiently repaired, justice restored, and the offender reformed’’.
The Murphy Commission notes: ‘‘This canon was interpreted to mean that bishops are required to attempt to reform the abusers in the first place.” In Dublin, efforts were made to reform abusing priests by sending them to therapeutic centres. But, according to the commission, ‘‘the archdiocese seems to have been reluctant to go beyond the reform process, even when it was abundantly clear that the reform process had failed’’.
But, more tellingly, the commission stated they ‘‘could find very little evidence, particularly in the early decades of the commission’s remit, of any attempt by church authorities to restore justice to the victims’’.
I t says the question of harm to the victims never seemed to have been considered by the archdiocese.
In considering whether a person is guilty of the ‘‘worst crime’’, canon law states a person must have ‘‘deliberately’’ violated the canon law. In considering the issue of guilt under canon law, the Canon Law Society of Britain and Ireland has commented: ‘‘Among the factors which may seriously diminish their imputability (guilt) in such cases (cases of clerical child sexual abuse) is paedophilia …
‘‘Those who have studied this matter in detail have concluded that proven paedophiles are often subjected to urges and impulses which are in effect beyond their control .. .because of the influence of paedophilia (the abuser) may not be liable, by reason of at least diminished immutability (guilt) to any canonical penalty or perhaps to only a mild penalty, to a formal warning or reproof or to a penal remedy.”
The commission says it ‘‘finds it a matter of grave concern that, under canon law, a serial child abuser might receive more favourable treatment from the archdiocese or from Rome, by reason of the fact that he was diagnosed as a paedophile’’.
What all this says is that the issue is not just a matter of negligence or complicity in clerical child sexual abuse on the part of individual bishops – it is the culture of the Catholic Church, a culture shaped by the church authorities in Rome and transmitted and refined in dioceses.
A culture that hides the Church’s own guidelines concerning what it itself rhetorically said was the ‘‘worst crime’’; that caused the Vatican authorities to pull the ground from priests who were trying to draft guidelines on abuse; that prioritises the abusers over the abused; that has been essentially indifferent to the harm caused to abuse victims; that regards paedophiles as objects of sympathy and compassion.
A few more episcopal resignations, with a presumption that these settle the matter, is just a continuance of the culture of denial of the Catholic Church’s institutional and cultural complicity in the criminality of clerical child sexual abuse.
The Holy Roman and Apostolic Church is the problem.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was invited to participate in a discussion on the Report by Commission of Investigation into Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, also known as the “Murphy Report” for a radio talk show on NewsTalk in Ireland. I was thrilled to be asked to be on and very happy to listen to a great discussion moderated by the host of The Wide Angle, Karen Coleman. The focus of most of the conversation was on the other two guest during the hour-long segment. Marie Collins and Father Thomas Doyle dominated the conversation, and rightly so. Marie Collins is a clear voice of the survivors’ movement in Ireland and her story is compelling and heartbreaking. Father Doyle has paid a significant price for his steadfast support for survivors and campaign to bring the church around to correct the problem. Believe me, I was pretty nervous in the company of these two powerhouses, fearing that I would sound like the “American Idiot” on the radio waves of my family’s ancestral home. Of course, even at my most incoherent I think I would be more convincing than the bishops who claim ignorance of the law and actions of their subordinates.
I did prepare for the show by reading Section I of the Murphy Report and skimming through Section II. (Cut me a little slack, the report is over 800 pages long.) I reread a summary of the Ryan Report from last summer and I listened to a few podcasts of the show. Ms. Coleman, the presenter, is no slouch! She is a formidable interviewer who does not sound like she would tolerate a guest who was not prepared for the topic at hand. After discussing the report and my nerves in advance of the show with my wife, she suggested I prepare some talking points and try to relax.
As I said in my last post, I think I was on air for about a minute, maybe less. For the record I am not complaining about my short contribution, I actually thought it was pretty amusing. Ms. Collins and Father Doyle were articulate and effective spokespersons for those of us who seek the truth and a real change in the church. I was happy to listen to both of them. When the Podcast of that broadcast becomes available you will understand just how well they spoke on behalf of survivors. The people I spoke with at “The Wide Angle” treated me very well and were very professional. They did a great job producing a show on a very volatile subject.
I decided to put my talking points into a post, no sense in wasting them! So here they are:
- My heart breaks thinking about all the thousands of victims of sexual crimes committed by the clergy. While the numbers are horrific, they are, unfortunately not a surprise. I am still amazed that Catholics are surprised by findings in reports that reaffirm over and over that the church has done little to protect children. What reports like this bring into sharp relief is that there is a failure by people who could have chosen to do the right thing and chose, instead, to do nothing.
- I understand the physical, emotional and spiritual damage done by pedophile priests and compounded by a church hierarchy that empowered these predators through a culture of secrecy and deceit. I grow more weary of listening to bishops lament about how shocked and saddened they are. I am not buying it. They knew, they have known all along. For these men to claim ignorance of the acts of their subordinates or to claim that they did not know that sexual abuse/attacks/rape of children was a crime is insulting. These men are as responsible as the predator for every child molested after the first “credible” report has been received and no action was taken.
- It is still happening, we should not be talking about this problem in a historical context. Not only are people coming forward to report abuse that occurred years ago, there are still children who are being put at risk or are actually suffering abuse by clergy. While the church would love to declare an end to the scandal and try to put it behind them, they are still enabling predators to operate within their ranks because they still cling to an atmosphere of secrecy. Abuse thrives in a culture of secrecy.
- Sexual predators need to be identified and held accountable for their actions. They should not live in relative comfort, being supported by funds donated by parishioners while the church takes no action to hold them accountable for their heinous actions. The church needs to turn them over to the authorities.
- Bishops and other church officials who have been actively involved in protecting and supporting these monsters need to be immediately removed from their positions. Where it is appropriate and feasible, they should be prosecuted for obstructing justice and aiding and abetting the abuse of children and vulnerable adults.
- The church is simply using a risk management strategy that has been proven to be a failure. That strategy is based on secrecy, bullying victims and attacking anyone who challenges their authority. As long as they are in a position of supporting lies and deception they are putting children and vulnerable adults at risk.
- The hierarchy of the church will not change until they are forced to pay a price so dear that they will have to stop the current practice of blaming victims and protecting predators.
- Things will not change as long as parishioners continue to financially support the people who allowed this cancer to fester.
- Civil authorities cannot abdicate their authority to protect children and vulnerable adults. Police and the judiciary must conduct investigations into allegations of abuse. You would not allow organized crime to investigate itself. Why give the church a pass?
I have some thoughts on the damage this causes to generations of the victims’ families, but that will be pretty personal and lengthy. I will develop that as a separate post.
During the discussion of the Murphy Report, the silence from the Vatican has been deafening. Where is the Pope? Where are the priests who are willing to stand up for their flocks? Where are the parishioners? When is it all going to end?