Bp. Jarrett: Didn’t implement Vatican’s child abuse reporting norms because they were in Latin

I want everyone to know this.

From The Advocate:

Bishop didn’t get message because it was written in Latin

BISHOP Geoffrey Jarrett [of Lismore, Australia] told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse he didn’t report an allegation against Lismore’s Father Paul Rex Brown to the Vatican because he wasn’t aware there had been a directive from the Pope to do so.

Bishop Jarrett was recall- ed to the Commission in relation to the case of Jennifer Ingham, who was sexually abused by Father Brown between 1978 and 1982.

A complaint against Father Brown was made in 2002, a year after the Pope ordered bishops around the world to report any allegations of child sexual abuse to the Vatican if there was a “semblance of truth” in the case.

However, Bishop Jarrett told the Royal Commission he had failed to do so because some directives “may not be remembered or acted upon”.

When questioned further by the Chair of the Commission, Justice Peter McClellan, Bishop Jarrett said the Pope’s original directive had been received in Latin and his Latin was “not perfect”. [Picture this.  “Hey!  Here’s a letter from the Holy See.  Hmmm.  It’s in Latin.  Okay, I guess I don’t have to know what’s in this one.”]

When Justice McClellan asked if he regularly received directives from the Vatican that he did not understand, Bishop Jarrett replied: “Usually they provide an English translation as well. Not all the bishops are fluent in Latin, not these days. Once we were.[How do you simulate in writing the sound of a face-palm?]

Once it was established that Bishop Jarrett had also received the directive in English, there were numerous questions about why he had not followed it.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Clerical Sexual Abuse, Puir Slow-Witted Gowk, You must be joking! and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. majuscule says:

    As unfortunate as this story is, I am impressed with the image.

    Really impressed…

  2. rodin says:

    Considering all the problems that Pope Francis must deal with it is a great pity he must now replace such incompetent bishops. I pray he will have good advisors.

  3. tcreek says:

    Bishop Jarrett, like many (most?) “shepherds” ignore church teaching on Latin.
    For the Church, precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure until the end of time … OF ITS VERY NATURE requires a language that is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular. –Pope Pius XI, Officiorum Omnium, 1922.

    The use of the Latin language prevailing in a great part of the Church affords at once an imposing sign of unity and an effective safeguard against the corruptions of true doctrine. –Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, 1947, Sec. 60.

    Latin is the immutable language of the Western Church. –Pope John XXIII.

    The Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every merely human society, for it was founded by Christ the Lord. It is altogether fitting, therefore, that the language it uses should be noble, majestic, and non-vernacular. –Pope John XXIII, Veterum Sapientia, February 22, 1962 (just eight months before the opening of Vatican II), chap. 13.

    We also, impelled by the weightiest of reasons … are fully determined to restore this language to its position of honor and to do all We can to promote its study and use. The employment of Latin has recently been contested in some quarters, and many are asking what the mind of the Apostolic See is in this matter. We have therefore decided to issue the timely directives contained in this document, so as to ensure that the ancient and uninterrupted use of Latin be maintained and, where necessary, restored. –Pope John XXIII, Veterum Sapientia, February 22, 1962 (just eight months before the opening of Vatican II),chap. 13.

    The use of the Latin language … is to be preserved in the Latin rites. –Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), para. 36.1.
    Two prophecies? 50 and 100 years ago.

    The day the Church abandons her universal tongue is the day before she returns to the catacombs. –Pope Pius XII.

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity. …
    The Second Coming — WB Yeats

  4. jhayes says:

    Latin still exists in our public schools:

    “Latin is anything but a dead language at Westwood High School, where 144 students pack classrooms in five grade levels, and dozens more are waiting for a seat.

    The ancient tongue of rulers, poets, and popes has found new life in a vital local program that offers not just rote declensions of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives — but also an exciting inside look at the roots of language and history.

    Across the state, 19,831 students in 126 of the state’s 403 school districts — or 6 percent of all students taking language courses — are enrolled in Latin courses, according to the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. ”


    [You like to paste in lots of long links. How nice it would were you to learn to add them in a more succinct fashion.]

  5. Gail F says:

    Ummmmm… he expects to be taken seriously? That’s like President Obama saying, “We’ve discovered that buying insurance is complicated.” D’oh!!!

  6. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Is His Lordship’s answer intended to be confusing, or is it supposed to make perfect sense? The way Fr. Zuhlsdorf presents it, the truth of the assertions is not under discussion, but only their utility.

  7. disco says:

    This sounds an awful lot like the ecclesiastical equivalent of “the dog ate my homework”

  8. MrTipsNZ says:

    First thing that came to mind:
    “The road to hell is paved with the bones of errant priests, with their Bishops skulls to serve as lamp-posts”.

    Bishop Jarrett: if you haven’t, go to confession for this, and drag a stone through Lismore. They need to see you publicly admit the wrong.

  9. SPWang says:

    …And he would be one of our better Bishops down here…

  10. robtbrown says:

    A priest and dear friend who died a few years ago had taught in US priestly formation since 1951 (Greek, Latin, and Moral Theology). He once told me that there were always attempts to implement (well or badly) whatever documents that came from Rome. He said it was different with Veterum Sapientia (1962)–it was ridiculed. NB: This was before the vernacularization of the liturgy.

  11. BobP says:

    This is worse than sad.

  12. LarryW2LJ says:

    Great facepalm photo, Fr. Z. Unfortunately, methinks the human race causes Him to do that a lot.

  13. TNCath says:

    In the future, perhaps I can get my public school 10th graders to translate for Bishop Jarrett.

    “Denial” is more than a river in Egypt.

  14. APX says:

    It’s stories such as these which give me great hope for the future of the Church. As the knowledge of Latin dies out amongst many priests, when it comes time to replace members of the hierarchy, there will be a much smaller pool of people who know Latin to choose from, mainly those priests of a more traditional leaning.

  15. Ben Kenobi says:

    So, first he lies about the directive only coming in Latin. Then he lies about not being able to understand it. Then he lies about this being justification for not implementing it. *sigh*. I feel your pain, Father Z. This must be incredibly frustrating for priests like yourself.

  16. Bob B. says:

    Amazing…and by a bishop, no less.
    Wonder how many Catholic schools offer Latin? I know I was giving 7th and 8th grade Catholic students some Latin during Religion classes, until the principal ordered me to stop (she didn’t like it) and when I went over to a Catholic high school for a short while, Latin was not offered.
    What a shame.

  17. BobP says:

    Some credit the internet for restoring Latin. If Catholic schools don’t offer Latin, one could always try some online colleges.


  18. RafqasRoad says:

    ‘Dumb’??? No; disgraceful!!

    This bishop is, by such a performance in the witness box of the royal Commission into Clerical Sexual Abuse, demonstrating utter contempt and arrogant disregard for the legal process. for US readers, the closest analogy to a Royal Commission would be a court martial or impeachment trial. to lie in this instance could have incredibly serious ramifications for said bishop.

    It is also a scandellous kick in the face for all who have suffered abuses of this nature and the blatant disregard of those in positions of shepherding whose responsibility it is to protect the lambs!!

    This does nothing to foster any cordial regard for the Catholic Church from the broader community or civic world. Indeed, all the bishop is doing is aiding the agenda of those who, ehm, do not have the church’s best interests at heart.

    As a new Catholic Christian, I am disgusted. Bishop, your grace, not happy sir, not happy at all! Lift your game, mate and how’s about a bit of genuine contrition, and many masses for those who have been victims of this cancer of Christ’s church!


    South Coast Catholic.

  19. Gratias says:

    If bishop Jarrett were a good man the first thing he would have done was to restore Latin teaching in his Seminary. Latin learning is what we should demand from our priests, who should be better than the laymen. We should also demand that all bishops can offer both rites of the Roman Catholic Church.

  20. cmnunis says:

    Latin, while important, is hardly the issue here. It is either incompetence or just plain laziness on the part of the bishop. How dare he even give that as an answer?

  21. As someone who actually knows Bishop Jarrett, may I say a few words in his defence?

    1) He’s a convert from Anglicanism, and they don’t go much for Latin in their training days … But he does his best. He would have genuinely been waiting for the English translation, and if that didn’t come, then the original may have gotten overlooked.

    2) He’s a fine bishop in most respects. You can read about him and about Lismore, his diocese, on the Australia Incognita site, which I know many of you read anyway.

    3) Gratias, he is a good man, but as far as I know, he doesn’t have his own seminary and therefore can’t restore Latin teaching there. Lismore is a suffragan see of Sydney, NSW, and I think the seminary used by the diocese is the one in Sydney, which is Cardinal Pell’s archdiocese.

    4) I think you may find that Jarratt did report the abuse, but just not direct to the Vatican. He’s also been reporting all cases to the Vatican since he was made aware of the directive, in 2006 – some seven years ago.

    This is a very good bishop, having an off day. That’s all. He is on our side in every other respect, so perhaps save the indignation for those who deserve it more?

  22. Colin Nunis, I agree with you (as you would probably already know, as we also know each other). All Jarrett has done is make an honest admission, under oath, of why he made that mistake. That’s all. I’m glad he told the truth.

    Bishop Jarrett is a humble and also a holy man. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting him – which you should, because you’re on his side of the country, and he does go to various conferences – you will see what I mean. He’s not incompetent, and he’s not lazy. He just had an off day, and he’s brave enough to admit it.

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