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Posted by on Feb 1, 2013 in Church, Morality, Religion and Society | 11 comments

“Kicked upstairs” and killing the fight against poverty – Vatican for “punishment for paedophiles”…

Beth, over at SIN’s Incongruous Elements, recently posted on the Vatican approach to sex abuse (that being cover it up or sweep it under the carpet):

Fifteen years before the clergy sex abuse scandal came to light, Archbishop Roger M. Mahony and a top advisor plotted to conceal child molestation by priests from law enforcement, including keeping them out of California to avoid prosecution, according to internal Catholic church records released Monday.

The archdiocese’s failure to purge pedophile clergy and reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement has previously been known. But the memos written in 1986 and 1987 by Mahony and Msgr. Thomas J. Curry, then the archdiocese’s chief advisor on sex abuse cases, offer the strongest evidence yet of a concerted effort by officials in the nation’s largest Catholic diocese to shield abusers from police. The newly released records, which the archdiocese fought for years to keep secret, reveal in church leaders’ own words a desire to keep authorities from discovering that children were being molested.

This follows hot on the heels of what has been happening over the past couple of years. Although what I am going to talk about is old news to the extent that it hit the news last year, it is still fascinating to me, and some of you may not know about it.

As you will know, sex abuse in the Catholic Church has been a perennial issue whcih reared its ugly head, particularly, in the Boston area of the US. As wiki sums up:

The sexual abuse scandal in Boston archdiocese was part of a series of Catholic sex abuse cases in the United States and Ireland. In early 2002, Boston Globe coverage of a series of criminal prosecutions of five Roman Catholic priests thrust the issue of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests into the national limelight.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10] The coverage of these cases encouraged other victims to come forward with their allegations of abuse resulting in more lawsuits and criminal cases.[11]

As it became clear that there was truth to many of the allegations and that there was a pattern of sexual abuse and cover-up in a number of large dioceses across the USA, what had originally appeared to be a few isolated cases of abuse exploded into a nationwide scandal. The resulting scandal created a crisis for the Catholic Church in the United States, encouraging victims in other nations to come forward with their allegations of abuse, thus creating a global crisis for the Church.

Ultimately, it became clear that, over several decades in the 20th century, priests and lay members of religious orders in the Catholic Church had sexually abused minors on a scale such that the accusations reached into the thousands. Although the majority of cases were reported to have occurred in the United States, victims have come forward in other nations such as Ireland, Canada and Australia. A major aggravating factor was the actions of Catholic bishops to keep these crimes secret and to reassign the accused to other parishes in positions where they had continued unsupervised contact with youth, thus allowing the abusers to continue their crime.

 As wiki reports:

Cardinal Law’s reign as Archbishop of Boston began in popularity but quickly declined into turbulence towards the end of his term. Allegations and reports of sexual misconduct by priests of the Archdiocese of Boston became widespread causing Roman Catholics in other dioceses of the United States to investigate similar situations there. Cardinal Law’s actions and inactions prompted public scrutiny of all members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the steps they had taken in response to past and current allegations of sexual misconduct at the hands of priests. The events in the Archdiocese of Boston exploded into a national Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.

Under questioning, the cardinal stated that, when a priest committed a sex crime, his practice was to seek the analysis of psychiatrists, clinicians and therapists in residential treatment centers before deciding whether to return a priest accused of sexually abusing a child to the pulpit.

Cardinal Law became the first high-level Church official to be accused of actively participating in the cover-up of child molestation.[4]

The Archdiocese closed sixty-five parishes before Cardinal Law stepped down from service.

So this particular scandal caused a bit of a headache for the Archbishop of Boston, one Bernard Law. What any decent, moral, upstanding, God-fearing paragon of virtue would do is to help the lawmakers and victims as much as possible to arrive at justice. Justice is, after all, a hallmark of God, no?

Apparently, this good and righteous approach is not what the Vatican do. No. Instead of handing him over to the police for aiding and abetting paedophilia and sex abuse, the Vatican “kicked him upstairs”. This is the term for when the Vatican pull a wrongdoer out of service and put them in a comfy administrative role back at HQ. Wow, that’s punishment.

But the story does not stop here, at the abuse and covering up of multitudinous wrongdoing.

So what would the religious antithesis of these male priests committing evil acts be? Well, one might imagine it could be the American nuns who get out and about is local poverty-stricken areas to ACTUALLY do something about making the world a better place. The work of the nuns, it appears, is nothing short of morally righteous. But, as Reuters reported in April last year:

(Reuters) – A prominent U.S. Catholic nuns’ group said on Thursday it was “stunned” that the Vatican reprimanded it for spending too much time on poverty and social justice concerns and not enough on abortion and gay marriage.

In a stinging report on Wednesday, the Vatican said the Leadership Conference of Women Religious had been “silent on the right to life” and had failed to make the “Biblical view of family life and human sexuality” a central plank in its agenda.

It also reprimanded American nuns for expressing positions on political issues that differed, at times, from views held by American bishops. Public disagreement with the bishops – “who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals” – is unacceptable, the report said.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a “doctrinal assessment” saying the Holy See was compelled to intervene with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious to correct “serious doctrinal problems.”

The nuns’ group said in a statement on its website, “The presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was stunned by the conclusions of the doctrinal assessment.”

The BBC said of the report:

It says the group is undermining Roman Catholic teaching on homosexuality and is promoting “feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith”.

It said issues of “crucial importance” to the church, such as abortion and euthanasia, had been ignored.

Vatican officials also castigated the group for making some public statements that “disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops”, who are the church’s “authentic teachers of faith and morals.”

The Catholic Herald reports the story here, and USA  Today here, which states:

Is the Vatican leaning on U.S. nuns to focus on authentic doctrine — or bullying them into submission for political purposes?

Religion News Service’s David Gibson raised the question in his analysis today of the Vatican crackdown on nuns and sisters announced last month. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious is now to be governed by bishops and redirected to focus on battling gay marriage, contraception and abortion, rather than the social justice focus for which it has been known.

Now, further reports reveal, the efforts were pushed by conservative U.S. cardinals in Rome including Boston Cardinal Bernard Law — who was last in headlines when he was forced to resign as archbishop of Boston in 2002 for gross mismangement of the sexual abuse crisis.

 And you might notice that name. Bernard Law.

So what we have is a group of religious women changing the world empirically for the better – improving society with regards to social justice and poverty. And them being not only reprimanded by their central HQ, but put into receivership by them! As The Nation reports:

Now, without notice to the nuns, it has been placed in receivership. The archbishop of Seattle, seconded by two other bishops, has been given a mandate to reorganize it. The nuns have been charged with sympathy for “radical feminism”—and with taking positions on matters like healthcare legislation different from those of the bishops. One of the organizations specifically cited by the Vatican is Network, which is in the vanguard of Catholic activism for equality and justice. Canon lawyers consulted by the Catholic press have said that there is no appeal provided for in the laws of the church.

The leaders of the conference have imposed silence on themselves until they meet to consider their next steps. The Vatican’s decision was communicated to them by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops while they, the nuns, were in Rome consulting with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Vatican’s lack of straightforwardness is striking. Perhaps a couple of the inquisitors have doubts, and so resorted to administrative brutality to still their own inner dissent.

Some Catholic women have not felt the need to be silent. The Washington Post quotes the Fordham University theologian Jeannine Fletcher on a paradox. “Women can’t be bishops, so there’s a very strange question of whether we can ever voice a response that challenges,” Fletcher says. “If women religious can’t, no women can.” The Post also cites Sister Julie Vieira of the Michigan-based order Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who said that “our vow of obedience applies to God…. it doesn’t reside in a bishop, a body of bishops or even the pope. For us, that sense of obedience has to do with listening deeply to the call of the spirit.” Is this 2012 or 1517?

It appears that on arrival of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope, the policies of the Vatican have become more and more conservative. And to put a group of morally virtuous people into receivership as thanks for their work is nothing short of disgraceful.

But the attack on the LCWR seems to have been instigated by disgraced paedophile cover-up merchant Bernard Law, kicked upstairs for his ‘good’ work. As David Gibson from the Religion News Service states:

Now it turns out that conservative American churchmen living in Rome — including disgraced former Boston Cardinal Bernard Law — were key players in pushing the hostile takeover of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, or LCWR, which they have long viewed with suspicion for emphasizing social justice work over loyalty to the hierarchy and issues like abortion and gay marriage.

 

Vatican observers in Rome and church sources in the U.S. say Law was “the person in Rome most forcefully supporting” the LCWR investigation, as Rome correspondent Robert Mickens wrote in The Tablet, a London-based Catholic weekly. Law was the “prime instigator,” in the words of one American churchman, of the investigation that began in 2009 and ended in 2011. The actual crackdown was only launched in April.

 

“American Catholics have not forgotten how long it took bishops to wake up to the sexual-abuse crisis they created. And now they see that the Vatican took just three years to determine that it had no other option but to put 80 percent of U.S. nuns — whose average age is 74 — into receivership, an effort led in part by Cardinal Bernard Law,” Grant Gallicho, an associate editor of Commonweal, a liberal Catholic periodical, wrote on the magazine’s blog.

“That decision has unified a good deal of Catholics all right — against Rome,” Gallicho concluded.

The decision also shone some light on the Byzantine maneuvering that can characterize Vatican politics – and hurt the Vatican’s public relations.

Wow. So the punishment for mismanaging a sex abuse scandal by covering up the crimes and protecting the criminals, whilst at the same time showing scant regard for the victims of these terrible crimes, seems to be getting moved to a comfortable administrative position where he can pat himself on the back for ruining the great work the nuns are doing to battle social injustice and poverty. All the name of right-wing lobbying for Jesus. The result of this being to send the Church backwards in time to the Dark Ages.

This story was covered superbly by Reasonable Doubts here, last year.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.curtis.3994 Brian Curtis

    It’s a good reminder to skeptics that there ARE Christians who are sincerely trying to help out and make the world a better place… and that the church hierarchy they serve won’t stand for such things.

    • http://www.www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      Great point BC. It’s all too easy to forget that there are good theists and bad atheists. Humanity, human nature, moral systems and our causal circumstances define whether we do good or not, not religion or atheism. 

      Any kind of power hierarchies should be massive red flags to both sides of the divide.

      • Daydreamer1

        I couldn’t agree more; except for the idea that ethical reinforcement can improve behaviour. I think I have seen evidence that you get a slight bump in short term moral decision making just after an ethical lecture/presentation (such as you might get from the pulpit). Atheism doesn’t contain moral codes per-se; though obviously since it resides in the minds of many moral human beings it lives alongside them.

        My concern with painting the issue as morality not coming from atheism or religion is that it it paints over the negatives of religion. Sermons from the pulpit can change behaviour, for good or bad. Is there really such a thing as sin? Do we get our souls tarnished by certain behaviours like being gay, having oral sex, not condemning non-belief in our friends and relatives? Wearing wrongly combined threads?

        Religion does attempt to teach moral codes (even if atheism on its own does not) – and my point would be that they are not all wholesome. The atheists point is perhaps better expressed in that moral codes come from outside of religion and the bits where religion insists they do not and that it has authority, i.e claiming that morality comes from God and can by definition come from nowhere else, are unevidenced, lack internal sense, and can be shown to be false.

        Religion is deeply involved in a culture war for its own definition of right and wrong. Secular society along with religious liberals have dragged it kicking and screaming to begrudgingly accept moral definitions it acted as if it hated.

        In that sense atheism might well not define whether we are good or bad, but religion right through to its bones tries its very hardest to define what is good and what is bad.

        • http://www.www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

          An excellent comment DD, Religion, as a belief system full of codes, codified morality, absolutes and ritualistic behaviour is about dictating what should and shouldn’t be the case.
          And all too often, it gets it wrong, having been codified in more primitive times.

  • http://www.facebook.com/laurence.england Laurence England

    Absurd.

    • http://www.www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      Laurence – Hi! Long time no speak.

      You say it is absurd, but this is, as you can see from some of the above quotes, reported by the Catholic Press themselves. It is Catholics who have kicked up the most fuss about this, particularly in the States. Perhaps because you are based in the UK you do not realise this, but this was big news for the Catholics in the US last year.

  • JohnM

    The catholic “church” is not a church, but a power-hungry political monster, run by unregenerate pagan men, who practising pagan rituals, who commit fortification with “The virgin mary”, the socalled “Queen of heaven”,  who only seek wealth and power for themselves, and cares little about their fellow human beings, other than what can be used as goodwill, in their quest for power.

    The killing field of Hitler and Stalin is just a drop in the ocean, compared to what the Catholic monster, has done though the ages. What does the pope and Jesus have in common? What does Baal and God have in common? Nothing…. So why do you call them followers of Christ?

    Nobody in their right mind, would look at the Catholic “Church” history, and say. “aaaah.. Those people are following in the footsteps of Christ”. Wake up. Jesus owned next to nothing. And he didn’t care about gold statues, stately buildings and politics. So why does the pope?

    • http://www.www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      Thanks for the comment, Jonh, and welcome back.

      As an evangelical Christian, your views on institutional churches are always interesting and controversial!

  • JohnM

    Well thanks for having me :)

    I wasn’t really gone though, I was just reading your post on my daily train-ride, without commenting for a while, to calm the waters.

    Maybe I should clarify that I don’t view all Catholics as evil human beings. I just view the system of Catholicism, as an evil empire. Especially considering how many of my spiritual brothers ( and real family ) were slaughtered by the catholic and Lutheran “churches”, because they simply wanted to practice a Christianity, true to the bible.

    And what’s rather terrifying, or what should terrify you, is that the catholic church haven’t changed a single letter, in the doctrines or the “church-laws”, used to prosecute and murder so many people during the ages. So if the catholic church were to gain power again, somehow, we would soon be back to the middle ages. And both you and I would be sharing a fire, at the town hall.

    How much would have to change for that to become reality?

    Well, just think of, how quickly things went during the second world war. How quickly people went from being civilized people, to killing each other in death camps.. Have we become too civilized for that to ever happen again? Or can any generation, no matter how civilized, turn into brutal bloodthirsty barbarians?

    And speaking of that, the catholic church actually played a very important role in what has become know as yugoslavia’s Holocaust.

    So could the catholic beast, heal the wound, and return to it’s former glory?

    Who knows. One thing is for sure. The mind set hasn’t changed. And it’s still trying, to get the power, that the they themselves think that they deserve.

    Just think about their stance on condoms, for example. I see no reason why anyone would ban those, from a Christian perspective. The real reason for the catholic church to take such as stance, is that they wish for their power-base to grow.

    You have to see it as a political movement. It’s not about the Christian faith to them. It’s just a trojan horse. And it has been, since Emperor Constantine.

  • leguru

    Like John M has shown, the Catholic Church, as all other political organizations, suffers from “institutionalization”, wherein the organization becomes more important than the goals or reasons for its existence. All of the above actions are in perfect accord with this principle. Sad, but true.

    Peace

  • Andy_Schueler

    And instead of owning up to their misdeeds, the church gets defensive. Gerhard Ludwig Müller, a german bishop who was recently appointed to be the “prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” (i.e. he´s the chief inquisitor of the catholic church) called the current press coverage about the catholic church a “pogrom atmosphere” (being criticized for protecting child rapists from law enforcement agencies is of course just as bad as mob violence against jews….). 
    Unsurprisingly, while Müller was still a Bishop in germany, he protected several child molesters from being prosecuted for their crimes – instead preferring to cover up their crimes and sending them to new dioceses, so that they can continue raping children. 
    I have no words to describe how much I despise the higher ups in the catholic church hierarchy. 
    A german blogger recently referred to the catholic church as “Kinderficker Sekte” (which literally means “kiddie-fucking cult”) – I think that is an apt description, although I would expand that to “child-raping, money-laundering, AIDS-promoting, fascist-allying, misogynistic cult”.