The key purposeful error in the NYTimes new attack on Pope Benedict

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.
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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.

Two points.

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.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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46 Responses to The key purposeful error in the NYTimes new attack on Pope Benedict

  1. Thomas G. says:

    Fr – but don’t nos. 71-74 of the 1962 document cover depraved acts outside the confessional as well (as also falling into the competence of the CDF)? This part of the issue has me confused – HB claims that the Vatican has been asserting that the CDF only had responsibility for acts occurring in the confessional.

  2. MichaelD says:

    Thank you for clarifying this Father. I must say I was depressed this morning when I came upon this article, though I knew it does not represent the whole truth about the situation. I am glad to have this information to use in the future in conversation with others.

  3. anna 6 says:

    You know that an article about the pope must be outrageously biased and badly reported when even the National Catholic Reporter steps in to defend him!
    http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/contra-nytimes

  4. anna 6 says:

    About the NCR article…don’t bother reading the comments though…they are really depressing!

  5. jm says:

    “…And in justice someone needs to pay to for it.”

    Rather impossible given the extent of the damage. Some things are only redressable to a point. Otherwise we would have reparations.

  6. FrancisJoseph says:

    Someone should make a computer program to monitor Catholic sites and alert us when certain buzz words are in the comments :) so we could show up en masse to defend the truth.

  7. Randii says:

    The problem is that the Vatican has lost an appeal to the Supreme Court asking that the Vatican not have to turn over documents or the Pope be potentially deposed.

    It is likley at the very least now Vatican documents will have to be turned over and the whole relationship between the Pope, the vatican, bisops and priests opened for scrutiny.

    Bob Bennet was on The World over tonight and called the ruling a disaster. He also pointed out it will continue to erode what little moral credibility cardinasl, bishops and the Church has. Referring to a news piece about an appeal by bishops to have the Eurpean Court decision banniong crucifexes in schools – basically the appeal by the church over this issue is likely to be ignored.

    New threats around the Poipe’s visit to the UK – Bob Bennet said it has to be considered whether he should go or not. There is a drama being planned by British TV on the trail of Pope Benedict over the abuse issue.

    As Bennet said – church leaders can’t refuse to be deposed – or Presidents, referring to Clinton.

    If you think the Times is having a heyday now wait till/if the Vatican has to turn over internal documents and high Vatican official are deposed. As Bennet says, in the US such depositions are almost made public.

    Very dark clouds on the horizon which even Raymond Arroyo acknowledged.

  8. shane says:

    I don’t understand how the court case affects anything. Even if they have found the Pope guilty of something, how do they plan in enforcing it? The Pope has sovereign immunity and even if he didn’t the Vatican is obviously outside American jurisdiction. No American president is going to declare war against the Holy See (which would be necessary to arrest him) whose defence is the responsibility of Italy, a member of NATO.

  9. Thomas G: From my understanding of this document (and anyone, please correct me if I am wrong), this document has to do with the “crime of sollicitation” in the Sacrament of Penance…it is a grave crime to encourage, solicit or engage in any sin against the Sixth Commandment in the context of the Sacrament of Penance. This is NOT about the sexual abuse of minors by a priest nor sexual misconduct by a priest with an adult.
    These media folks have got to get a canonical advisor; they are not reporting accurate things.
    This document is made clearer by the newer norms that refer any substantiated and credible abuse of a minor by a priest to the CDF.
    These 1962 norms have to do with soliciting sex in the confessional by a priest (to put it bluntly…in other words, the priest was “putting the make on” the penitent, or encouraging the penitent to commit a grave sin against the Sixth Commandment with a third party.

  10. shane says:

    There is an excellent explanation of CS here:

    http://www.nationalcatholicreporter.org/update/bn080703.htm

  11. DHippolito says:

    Fr. Z and fellow readers, I suggest you read the following excerpt from Rod Dreher’s blog on the story, which even he criticized:

    Understand, it’s not that Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, is blameless here. It’s rather that what the Times has found is an example of how a moral imperative — dealing firmly and effectively with the problem of child-molesting priests — got obscured and smothered by the fog of bureaucracy. That’s an important story, indeed a tragic one.

    Whatever, agenda the Times might have had, this is the fact: The Church has failed to confront a fundamental moral crime forthrightly and honestly. In the process, Church leaders have dragged God’s impeccable reputation through the sewer.

    For far too long, Church hierarchs and bureaucrats have valued themselves and their own prestige and power over God’s Name. Let’s not forget that St. Alphonsus Ligori recommended that sex abusers be castrated nearly three centuries ago!!

    Whatever happens to the current Pope, however unfair it might be to human eyes, could well be God’s way of dealing with a wayward Church that long ago sacrificed its first love to an unabashed worship of itself.

    Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/roddreher/#ixzz0sacIMahK

  12. Jordanes says:

    Randii said: As Bennet said – church leaders can’t refuse to be deposed – or Presidents, referring to Clinton.

    The absolute monarch of Vatican City State certainly can refuse to be deposed by trial lawyers, regardless of what a U.S. judge may or may eventually decide about it. The U.S. has no jurisdiction over the Vicar of Christ. If a judge attempts to summon the Pope to give testimonyor provide documents in a U.S. civil trial, we can still appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to have such an outrageous decision overturned. If the U.S. disregards its own laws and international law, let the U.S. just try to kidnap the Pope and bring him to court — we’ll see how well that goes over.

  13. DHippolito says:

    Gentle readers, if you think this whole situation ultimately is about the Pope, I suggest you read the following. I advise you that it will not be pretty:

    http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/4471

  14. I’m sorry to “shoot the messengers” here; but Rob Dreher and Michael Sean Winters are not exactly sources I want to depend upon. Really. Think about it.
    Do either of them actually understand, comprehend, and have the ability to transmit what they actually have read or need to make intelligible? (Think about this carefully before you make a decision)…I mean, really?
    Let’s listen to some canon lawyers who might, actually, shed some light on all of this…T.Ferguson? Dr. Peters?
    These two(Dreher and Winters, I might specify) should report the “Ladies Sodality” News for all I give a …well…anyway.
    Let’s get some real knowledge on all of this.
    Let the pundits shut up, for all I care. Let the real experts speak…Tim, are you there???
    I want to know exactly “what” is going on here.

  15. DHippolito says:

    OK, Nazareth Priest (if you really are a priest), why don’t you read the link from Brussels Journal about the corruption in the Belgian Church?

    If you were a Godly man, let alone a priest, you would be appalled at the complacent attitude of the Vatican bureaucrachy toward even the possibility that priests would commit moral crimes against the innocent. Do you know (or care) that God consistantly demands that the innocent and vulnerable be protected? St. James wrote in his epistle that “true religion” consists of caring for widows and orphans, who not only represent themselves but also serve as metaphors for all the vulnerable?

    This Church has mocked God for centuries by becoming obsessed with its own power and prestige. Either it repents of its arrogance or God will destroy it. And if you quote “the gates of Hell shall not prevail,” I shall remind you that 1)the gates of Hell are prevailing, sadly (Pope Paul VI himself said that the “smoke of Satan has entered the sanctuary”) and 2)God allowed the OT Israelites to be taken captive by the Assyrians and Babylonians as punishment for their idolatry and resultant social deterioration. Are Catholics so much better?

  16. DHippolito: Your comments are rather sinister…would you like Pope Benedict to be deposed by the American government or World Court? Have you read R. H Benson’s “Lord of the World?” Are you mad? Wjat jurisdiction or moral authority has the US of A to impose upon the Supreme Pontiff?
    To place the universal sin of the abuse of children/youth upon Pope Benedict XVI is, in my mind, absolutely insane.
    What are you thinking?
    There is Satanic activity in our midst, more than we know; but to attack the Vicar of Christ, a man who in his teaching and writing and example is anything but Satanic…and esp. for you who attack him for using the Ordinary Form…God help you; I cannot understand this attack upon the Vicar of Christ, when he is making it very evident that he is attempting Unity while making it clear that Tradition must be respected in all ways.

  17. anna 6 says:

    I saw EWTN’s program tonight and I thought that Bob Bennett was terrible! He virtually predicted that the pope would be summoned (highly unlikely) and practically endorsed Laurie Goodstein (NY Times journalist of today’s article). Though Bennett may be a great attorney, I think that this topic is beyond his competence and his ego was getting the best of him. If I were Jeffery Lena, I would be furious! Raymond Arroyo should have had some contrasting views for balance.
    With friends like that…

  18. anna 6 says:

    cont’d…
    …and his (Bennett’s) suggestion that the pope should consider canceling his trip to Great Britain was ridiculous. He also suggested that the pope need to reconsider all of his travels in the future for fear of be arrested, while neither Arroyo or Bennett ever talked about Benedict’s positive contributions to healing the scourge of clerical sexual abuse. I found the program less than edifying!

  19. Geoffrey says:

    “I saw EWTN’s program tonight and I thought that Bob Bennett was terrible!”

    Me too. I wasn’t very impressed. More than once The World Over has had a guest or two taking the side of the media.

    “God allowed the OT Israelites to be taken captive by the Assyrians and Babylonians as punishment for their idolatry and resultant social deterioration. Are Catholics so much better?”

    Actually, yes. Not individual Catholics, necessarily, but rather the Church, the spotless Bride of Christ. Christ Himself said as much.

    I read the Brussels Journal fairly regularly. I have yet to see a positive article about the Church.

  20. Norah says:

    I watched Bob Bennett on World Over and I was disturbed and depressed at the conclusion of the interview. While I didn’t like what Mr Bennett had to say I appreciated his legal opinion of the issue facing the Church. He painted a much blacker picture of the Supreme Court’s decision not to listen to the Vatican lawyers appeal than did the lawyer. To condem Mr Bennett is a bit like shooting the messenger because we don’t like the message.

  21. S. Murphy says:

    Mr Bennett sounds like he’s met Laurie Goodstein, and says that she’d be interested in getting both sides of the story. Maybe she’s just wrong, rather than hostile. Maybe the Church had an opportunity to tell her side of the story and didn’t. Maybe Archbishop Dolan should have a canon lawyer contact Ms Goodstein and go through the canon law issues with her – what do the Latin documents really say, what do the Italian transcripts really say, and what authority did the bishops have to fix things in their own dioceses, as opposed to the current lawyers’ narrative that the bishops, who we already sued, and whose dioceses declared bankruptcy, are now revealed to have been pure as the driven snow, but impeded by nasty Vatican bureaucracy and indifference. I’m sure there’s fault in both places, Joe D’H, but can we please not charge into St Peter’s with flamethrowers just yet?

  22. Cavaliere says:

    If the U.S. disregards its own laws and international law, let the U.S. just try to kidnap the Pope and bring him to court—we’ll see how well that goes over.

    The U.S. has no interest in seeing this case go forward as it would set a precedent in international law that could see the U.S. presidents hauled into court in numerous countries around the globe.

  23. Henry Edwards says:

    It appears to me that Bob Bennett is simply arguing that the situation is so bad that the Church needs to replace its current legal representation with a lawyer of his own considerable expertise.

  24. shane says:

    “Why humanists shouldn’t join in this Catholic-bashing”

    http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/printable/8360/

    A must read article.

  25. Ismael says:

    “About the NCR article…don’t bother reading the comments though…they are really depressing!”

    Anne, reading comments at NCR (and many other places like youtube) is always depressing.
    I think most readers of NCR are anti-catholic… of course it does not help that NCR lets Hans Kung quack around his nonsense…

    “”I shall remind you that 1)the gates of Hell are prevailing, sadly (Pope Paul VI himself said that the “smoke of Satan has entered the sanctuary”)””

    I think this is quite poor understanding of what is happening (or perhaps a troll… you never know).

    Sure there are some rotten elements in the Church, even in high positions and mistakes have been made… but Pope Benedict (and not only him) are trying to clean up the Church.

    There have been many crisis in the past and everytime the Church has grown renewed and stronger and wiser, learning from past mistakes.

    There will always be ‘Judases’ that commit evil hiding within the Church, unfortunately but the lord will not destroy the Church just to punish those evil elements.

    Remember this parable from Mattew 13:

    The Parable of the Weeds
    “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

    “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

    ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

    ” ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ “

  26. S. Murphy says:

    Ismael,

    DHippolito’s not a troll… He posts on a lot of Catholic blogs. Rhetoric often pretty blunt, and broad-sweeping — but motivation is zeal for justice. He’s right that we should all be furious at the bishops the actually have done wrong.

    The parable of the weeds is a good reminder to us not to write off ALL the bishops as bad guys (in this context). Different story though, if you’re in law enforcement and somebody who’s been aiding and abetting falls under your jurisdiction.

  27. robtbrown says:

    DHippolito is right to be outraged at the negligence of the hierarchy. He is wrong, however, to point the finger at the Vatican “bureaucracy”. It’s been pointed out more than once that the diocesan bishop or religious major superior has the authority to remove immediately any priest from pastoral contact.

    IMHO, if any finger needs to be pointed, it should be toward those who let themselves be brainwashed about the post VatII Church. I have never ceased being amazed at those who somehow have thought that the Montini Church could function successfully even as the seminaries, religious orders, and parishes emptied. It was inevitable that serious problems would develop, such as the sexual scandals.

    I have many hesitations about the SSPX (e.g., Abp Lefebvre continuing despite his suspension, the schismatic consecration of bishops, and clinging to the Counter Reformation Church). Their members, however, at least weren’t like the lemmings who rushed with smiling faces into what the company line insisted was Catholicism. –but actually was little else than a plan to destroy the Church.

  28. gtbradshaw says:

    “He’s right that we should all be furious at the bishops the actually have done wrong.

    S Murphy,
    When I hear ANY Catholic pewsitter take responsiblity for the abuse
    scandal & do anything but point fingers at the bishops, then I’ll know
    we’ve turned the corner-toward-conversion as a Church. Its too too easy
    to sit back in your barcolounger & point fingers at the bishops. We get
    the bishops we deserve. Since I lived thru the period that the scandals took
    place, may I remind you that we, the people in the pews, held hands & skipped
    merrily down the lane with the pervailing culture of the time too. E.g.,
    WE contracepted our kids out of existence. WE turned a blind eye to the
    growing gay culture so as not to be called homophobes. WE moved in with
    our ‘partners’ without benefit of marriage. WE went to Mass on Sundays
    when it worked into our schedule…& then marched ourselves up to Communion.

    I hope it is obvious that I’m speaking for myself & my middle class American
    Catholic family but, from what I see, we weren’t too different than other
    families. So how about let’s grow up, admit our complicity in fostering
    a climate in which the clergy scandals could take root & grow & stop running
    for cover like Adam & Eve?

  29. robtbrown says:

    I hope it is obvious that I’m speaking for myself & my middle class American Catholic family but, from what I see, we weren’t too different than other families. So how about let’s grow up, admit our complicity in fostering a climate in which the clergy scandals could take root & grow & stop running for cover like Adam & Eve?
    Comment by gtbradshaw

    Huh? How did was I complicit in fostering a climate in which the clergy scandals could take place?

  30. DHippolito says:

    S. Murphy and robtbrown, thank you so much for your defense.

    robtbrown, I blame the Vatican bureaucracy because…like all bureaucracies…it focuses primarily on its own survival, maintenance and promotion, not on the values it claims to uphold. This human trait becomes worse when the bureaucrats view themselves as entitled and unaccountable, and transparency is strongly discouraged, as is true in the Church. Remember, it was the bishops from English-speaking countries that brought the problem to Rome, and that Rome (not necessarily Ratzinger/Benedict per se) dithered.

    When the Church acts like a cross between the DMV and Enron, something is profoundly out of joint.

    Also, when you live by bureaucracy, you die by bureaucracy.

    Nazareth Priest, do you know what I’m thinking? I’m thinking that the Church as a whole should stop whining, looking for excuses, hiding behind a facade of victimization and blaming others (like reporters), and should repent. It should repent of its collective arrogance and sense of entitlement. It should repent of its desire to maintain power and prestige (“la bella figura,” as the Italians say). It should repent of its collective decision made centuries ago to dump Christ and the Triune God in favor of political power and intellectual fashion. It should return to the Father like the Prodigal Son that it is. Otherwise, it wil, continue to languish in pig pens and eat corn cobs.

    This has absolutely nothing to do with liturgical form, and you know it, Nazareth Priest. In the long run, this has nothing to do with Pope Benedict, himself, regardless of what he does because the damage is too widespread and pervasive for any one man to contain, let alone to stop.

    I am truly amazed that so many Catholics are so willingly ignorant of the holiness, righteousness and ultimate purity of the God they claim to worship. As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote, “it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.”

    Either the Church repents or God will destroy it. Period.

  31. robtbrown says:

    Should be: How was I complicit . . .

    Also:

    The “let’s grow up and admit we’re all to blame” line is offensive. Some of us have actively worked for the reformation of the Church, only to be rebuffed by parish priests and bishops.

  32. DHippolito says:

    gtbradshaw, your comment about the laity’s responsibility is correct only to the extent that the laity gave bishops and priests excessive deference and would not question anything they did. The fact is that most laity take their cues from the bishops and clergy. If the bishops and clergy preach garbage, then the laity will think in terms of garbage (remember, “garbage in, garbage out”). Besides, the laity has absolutely no imput into episcopal selections; the process is closed and excessively centralized. So saying that “we get the bishops that we deserve” is a masochistic cop-out.

    I wish to refer to you an incident that took place this spring. The president of the German bishops’ conference publicly denied (on German television) the doctrine that Christ’s death did not expiate God’s righteous anger at sin. That doctrine is fundamental to all Christian denominations. Yet Pope Benedict did not publicly rebuke that bishop. How is this the laity’s fault?

    (BTW, robtbrown, that is an example of the Vatican bureaucracy protecting itself, since the Pope is the head of that bureaucracy.)

    Besides, gtbradshaw, why do you think people like robtbrown are so frustrated? He certainly doesn’t seem to be the type to buy into a lot of the nonsense being preached these days. There are a lot more like him out there.

    Just like you can’t blame every bishop, you can’t blame the laity as a whole, either.

  33. robtbrown says:

    robtbrown, I blame the Vatican bureaucracy because…like all bureaucracies…it focuses primarily on its own survival, maintenance and promotion, not on the values it claims to uphold. This human trait becomes worse when the bureaucrats view themselves as entitled and unaccountable, and transparency is strongly discouraged, as is true in the Church. Remember, it was the bishops from English-speaking countries that brought the problem to Rome, and that Rome (not necessarily Ratzinger/Benedict per se) dithered.
    Comment by DHippolyto

    Disagree.

    Once again: It is incorrect to blame this on the Vatican “bureaucracy”. These problems could have all been handled on the local level.

  34. S. Murphy says:

    Yeah… gtbradshaw, if the clergy, who after all come from the laity — are men of their times, as opposed to clones raised in a vacuum, or spearmen sown from dragons’ teeth — then yeah, the some of laity have been willing participants in some of the goofiness that happened when the lithium (Spirit of V II) met the H2O (sexual revolution/the insanity of the 60s in general).

    But that doesn’t mean that those of us who were fortunate enough to grow up without ever meeting or hearing about (in our own parish, as opposed to on the news) a pedophile priest, or an aiding and abetting bishop, were even remotely complicit in these crimes.

    I thought the Church didn’t believe in collective guilt? I know I heard some homilies when I was a kid, and especially in college about ‘structures of sin,’ and ‘social sins,’ but I never quite thought I was being told to go to confession as ask forgiveness for being white and therefore ‘advantaged’ or whatever. Maybe in St Sabina’s parish, who knows…

    Pedophilia is a human problem – not a Catholic problem, a celibate problem, a clergy of other faiths problem, a public school problem — and not a trad problem or a V II. Pervs are probably more or less evenly distributed.

    robtbrown – I don’t quite buy that covering up these particular crimes is a ‘spirit of V II’ problem, either. I think DH is a lot closer to the right track in saying that that’s a bureaucratic reflex. Made worse in certain circumstances by a bishop having a skeleton in his own closet. Made worse in certain circumstances by bishops wanting to protect the reputation of the Church and not drive folks away with scandal. This motive can be mixed with that of protecting the bureaucracy/ the institution as such.
    How guilty the Vatican is — or this or that cardinal is, or how this or that dicastery helped or hurt, we only have partial information. The bishops in the Vatican will have maybe had the same instincts as everybody else. They don’t need to have been directing it – if Orthodox bishops do the same thing, and families do the same thing, and school administrators do the same thing, then it’s everybody’s instinct to cover up embarassing crimes, and they’re ALL wrong; but it doesn’t NEED to have been the Vatican conspiracy or centralized, consolidated, micromanaged ‘all the Vatican’s fault’ thing that the lawyers want it to be. On the other hand, some cases came to the Vatican, and this or that dicastery handled them well (sometimes CDF) or poorly (Clergy, and perh sometimes CDF).

    If the Pope doesn’t fire bishops for piss-poor management, failure to comply with legitimate laws of his own country and state, or even heresy… why not? Is there anything he could conceivably fire them for? Or at least reassign them to ghost towns, like that one French guy?
    And what degree of ‘command and control’ has the Vatican ever tried to exert on the governance of local dioceses? I wish the investigative journalists would investigate what the Church has tried to control from Rome, when they take somebody’s word for it that ‘the Church has become more centralized ever since Vatican I,’ or ever since JPII, etc.

  35. shane says:

    “These problems could have all been handled on the local level.”

    Agreed. Whatever the failings of the Roman Curia (and they are legion), we’re ultimately dealing with bishops who turned a blind eye to abusers in their own diocese.

    In its historic context, it’s actually quite understandable. Abuse was handled, throughout society, very differently back then. I know several instances where psychiatrists gave an all clear to bishops to move an abusing priest to a different parish.

  36. robtbrown says:

    I wish to refer to you an incident that took place this spring. The president of the German bishops’ conference publicly denied (on German television) the doctrine that Christ’s death did not expiate God’s righteous anger at sin. That doctrine is fundamental to all Christian denominations. Yet Pope Benedict did not publicly rebuke that bishop.

    Two points:

    1. The last thing we need is another pope who is a crisis manager, moving from one grass fire to the next. What is needed–which is what BXVI has started–is rebuilding the Church.

    2. And I disagree with your conception of Soteriology. Although the Atonement Theory, to which you obliquely refer, is a component in the Christology of St Thomas, it is an inadequate description of it.

    (BTW, robtbrown, that is an example of the Vatican bureaucracy protecting itself, since the Pope is the head of that bureaucracy.)

    Nonsense. It has nothing to do with the Vatican bureaucracy.

    Besides, gtbradshaw, why do you think people like robtbrown are so frustrated? He certainly doesn’t seem to be the type to buy into a lot of the nonsense being preached these days. There are a lot more like him out there.
    Comment by DHippolito

    In so far as I spent 8 years in Rome, leaving with various Pontifical degrees of theology, incl the doctorate, after which i taught in the FSSP seminary, I rather doubt there a more like me out there.

  37. robtbrown says:

    robtbrown – I don’t quite buy that covering up these particular crimes is a ‘spirit of V II’ problem, either. I think DH is a lot closer to the right track in saying that that’s a bureaucratic reflex. Made worse in certain circumstances by a bishop having a skeleton in his own closet. Made worse in certain circumstances by bishops wanting to protect the reputation of the Church and not drive folks away with scandal. This motive can be mixed with that of protecting the bureaucracy/ the institution as such.
    Comment by SMurphy

    I never said that it was a spirit of Vat II problem. I said that post Vat II Church cannot function successfully.

    I recommend you read Veterum Sapientia.

  38. robtbrown says:

    Also:

    Pedophilia is a human problem – not a Catholic problem, a celibate problem, a clergy of other faiths problem, a public school problem—and not a trad problem or a V II. Pervs are probably more or less evenly distributed.

    For the most part the scandals involved hebephilia (early or mid adolescents) not pedophilia (pre adolescents). While pedophilia is not gender specific, hebephilia is. Thus, the scandals were homosexuals acts.

  39. DHippolito says:

    robtbrown, you are right in saying that the problem was fundamentally local, especially in Boston (Law) and Los Angeles (Mahony). But the Vatican bureaucracy is responsible to the extent that it dithered when honest bishops demanded guidance from Rome. Besides, robtbrown, Church bureaucrats aren’t immune from the same frailities, foibles and sins that affect bureaucrats in non-religious settings. Pretending otherwise is absurd.

  40. Ismael says:

    @ S. Murphy

    “Ismael,

    DHippolito’s not a troll… He posts on a lot of Catholic blogs. Rhetoric often pretty blunt, and broad-sweeping—but motivation is zeal for justice. He’s right that we should all be furious at the bishops the actually have done wrong.”

    I am also angry at the bishops and priests who did wrong, but one thing is to work constructively and try to help the Church another thing is mindless rethoric that can only spread panic and confusion (when there is too much around to begin with…)

    After all if you have rats in your house you do not burn your house down to chase them away.

  41. Ismael says:

    “But the Vatican bureaucracy is responsible to the extent that it dithered when honest bishops demanded guidance from Rome. ”

    I agree with you here D’Hippolito. Mistakes and wrong judgements happened even at the top, unfortunately.

    I hope that the Church, from cardinal to simple faithful will learn from this crisis and that in the future such horrible mistakes will be avoided

  42. shane says:

    “But the Vatican bureaucracy is responsible to the extent that it dithered when honest bishops demanded guidance from Rome.”

    Which bishops asked the Roman Curia for guidance?

  43. robtbrown says:

    robtbrown, you are right in saying that the problem was fundamentally local, especially in Boston (Law) and Los Angeles (Mahony). But the Vatican bureaucracy is responsible to the extent that it dithered when honest bishops demanded guidance from Rome. Besides, robtbrown, Church bureaucrats aren’t immune from the same frailities, foibles and sins that affect bureaucrats in non-religious settings. Pretending otherwise is absurd.
    Comment by DHippolito

    You contradicted yourself. First, you agree that the responsibility belongs to the local bishop. Then you point the finger at Rome.

    Honest bishops? I personally know of bishops whose priests had problems, and those bishops moved quickly to remove them from any pastoral contact. It didn’t take guidance from Rome. I also know of bishops who did nothing. The reason the former actually did something about the situation was that they were more interested in pastoral care than in being promoted.

    You also seem to have a false concept of the Vatican. It is not a huge bureaucracy but rather a sparse one.

    You seem not to have a grasp on this situation at all.

  44. PostCatholic says:

    I personally know of bishops whose priests had problems, and those bishops moved quickly to remove them from any pastoral contact. It didn’t take guidance from Rome. I also know of bishops who did nothing. The reason the former actually did something about the situation was that they were more interested in pastoral care than in being promoted.

    I knew one of those, too. And I won’t disagree that the Vatican’s bureaucracy is sparse. That may well be part of the problem–too sparse to efficiently carry out its responsibilities. And I agree that local responsibility was and is the correct method of dealing with the molestation and abuse of children.

    But responsibility was not purely local, and assigning the blame back to “bad bishops” and local churches which “failed the faithful” is spin. In however as much as the Vatican:
    – Reserved (appellate) jurisdiction for a number of these cases and acted slowly or poorly or wrongly or all three;
    – Failed to ask reasonable questions or begin investigations where it had a supervisory authority and a good reason to do so;
    – Failed to identify patterns of clergy abuse from what data such as cases, ad limina reports, the collaboration of the nunciatures and episcopal conferences, the work of its three courts and the dicasteries, it did collect;
    – Failed to correct those patterns when they were observed;
    – Appointed and vetted as local ordinaries ethically depraved criminals who thought they had a greater duty to preventing scandal than to protecting children;
    – Failed to remove those prelates when the truth was known and shelters them still in positions of high authority;

    then the Vatican shares in the responsibility for those crimes. It must make amends and set policies in motion to be sure that the duty of supervision it does have is executed efficiently.

  45. DHippolito says:

    robtbrown, why is what I said a contradiction? Pastoral and ecclesiastical authority on all levels is to blame for the problem.

    As far as “honest bishops demanding guidance from Rome” goes, I’m under the impression from the NYT article that bishops from English-speaking countries (which have a strong tradition of Common Law, btw) wanted such guidance (not all of them, of course).

    Besides, in a centralized, hierarchical bureaucracy, all responsibility ultimately resides with those at the top. That’s a matter of corporate human dynamics and common sense, not theology or ecclesiology.