There is a key problem with the recent article in Hell’s Bible (aka New York Times) attacking the Pope.
As a preamble I must say that people have already made up their mind about the Catholic Church and the clerical sexual abuse problem.
I emphasize: the problem in the past which wasn’t handled well. The Church has dealt with this problem in the present, though there are still problems with the way it was handled in the past.
At this point new media muckraking will rarely change minds about the Catholic Church. There is media saturation by now. When I see BP’s underwater oil gusher video live on TV, I am disgusted momentarily and then I turn the channel. I’ve already made up my mind about oil gusher. It’s nasty and I hope it gets cleaned up, the sooner the better. And in justice someone needs to pay to for it.
So, we are not in the least impressed that Hell’s Bible has another article this month. We aren’t happy about it, but there are no new lessons. The New York Times is in bed with lawyers who want more money and with liberal Catholics who want to crack the Church’s tradition on celibacy and male priesthood. Ho hum. People aren’t going to be moved again until they start covering the real stores that have been sidestepped: women religious, the magisterium of nuns, covered up their problems and married Protestant ministers abused children also.
But for us insiders, you who read blogs, a couple things must be said about this latest attack. Like serious observers of a ball game, we are compelled to keep score, point out runs, hits, errors, double-plays, bench-clearing-brawls.
There are errors in the New York Times attack.
Theirs is a scatter shot attack. There are boring stabs at Apostolos suos, Liberation Theology, etc. Ho hum.
The real problem is that a absolutely get wrong the 1962 document Crimen sollicitationis.
And because the editors of Hell’s bible aren’t stupid, they are getting it wrong on purpose.
- Here is the link to Crimen sollicitationis on the Vatican website.
- CBS News has a pdf of the document itself.
1) As is clear from Crimen sollicitationis 1-2, the jurisdiction of the then Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office (SSCSO, the name of the present Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or CDF until 1965), only covered solicitation in the context of confession/internal forum, and not other delicts. That is why there are relatively few cases handled at the SSCSO and CDF until the whole system was overhauled.
2) The jurisdiction of the SSCSO/CDF was not immediate. The first instance or immediate jurisdiction remained in the diocese. The SSCSO would only have called a case to Rome if their were some compelling reason, for example, depending on whether the Holy Office even knew about it, or if the diocese couldn’t deal with it. The dioceses had immediate jurisdiction.
I suppose you could object that Rome should have wanted to deal with every case. Consider that back then is not right now. Tools of communication are very different now. Given the reasonable principle of subsidiarity, there was great reason to leave the cases in the dioceses. As the situation, and communications, changed, Rome could get more directly involved and informed. But, until the Church’s procedures were changed, that was how they handled things.
These points are crucial, for on them rests the mantra that "all along Ratzinger and the CDF did nothing".
This is insider baseball, of course. But you insiders who read this sort of thing, need to be able to explain the situation when the topic arises with colleagues or loved ones or strangers.
UPDATE 2033 GMT – BATTLE OF THE FISHWRAPS!:
I believe the temperature in hell is dropping or that the Cubs are going to win the World Series. An article in the National Catholic Fishwrap appears to attack Hell’s Bible. The nearly always wrong Sean Michael Winters explains that the writers of the NYT don’t understand what they are talking about.
At the end of his piece, however, he expresses an opinion that:
"As for the import of the 1922 and 1962 documents, about which the story makes so much, the Times acknowledges that there was confusion about who did and did not have authority to deal with the crime of sex abuse until 2001. That confusion reigns still. This morning I consulted two highly respected canon lawyers. One said that the documents did give the CDF authority in the disputes. The other said the documents only gave CDF authority over the crime of solicitation in the confessional. Again, check in with Jack McCoy."
I recommend that he ask the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about this. If he does, he will get what I explained, above.