By James Shanahan
For years Catholic Church officials claimed that the reason they didn’t report paedophile priests to the police and instead moved them to new unsuspecting parishes was to protect ‘the good name of the church’. There are two things wrong with this excuse; three things if you do not allow that the church had a good name to start with!
Leaving aside the arguable third problem, the other two problems are, one, that bishops were threatened with ex-communication (eternity in hell) if they reported priests to the police, and two, when the actions of bishops who moved priests around are looked at closely, it can be seen that they worked against the interests of ‘the good name of the church’. This should not surprise us.
So to the first issue, that of ex-communication – the document forbade church officials from informing the police and were instructed instead to keep the matter quiet which meant keeping the victim quiet and his or her parents as well.
“As, assuredly, what must be mainly taken care of and complied with in handling these trials is that they be managed with maximum confidentiality and after the verdict is declared and put into effect never be mentioned again (20 February 1867 Instruction of the Holy Office, 14), each and every person, who in any way belongs to the tribunal or is given knowledge of the matter because of their office, is obliged to keep inviolate the strictest secrecy (what is commonly called “the secrecy of the Holy Office”) in all things and with all persons, under pain of automatic excommunication, incurred (ipso facto) without need of any declaration other than the present one, and reserved to the Supreme Pontiff in person alone, excluding even the Apostolic Penitentiary.
This document and its instructions have not been revoked and are therefore still in force and would explain why the church is still not informing the police of crimes committed by its clergy. This is illegal under state law. The fact that this document, Crimen Sollicitationis, has not been revoked bears witness to the fact that the Church regards itself as the supreme authority on earth.
A current example of this can be found here.
“Anatrella stoked that furore earlier this year when it was revealed that he told new bishops at a Vatican-sponsored course that they are not obligated to report a suspected abuser to authorities even in countries where the law requires such reporting.”
The article goes on to quote a church official as stating that this is against church policy. But when you pit church law against stated (for the public) church policy guess which path the church hierarchy will follow? The church hierarchy has consistently followed a legalistic approach to dealing with sexual abuse victims.
The church preaches that God gave them authority over everyone on earth and, of course, it should come as no surprise that they start believing it themselves. These people are seriously deluded.
Indeed, the church holds to the principle of Rule According to Higher Law which places Canon Law above secular law.
“The idea of a law of ultimate justice over and above the momentary law of the state—a higher law—was first introduced into post-Roman Europe by the Catholic Canon Law jurists.”
Think it is not happening now?
A second reason the church thinks it is the supreme authority is because its own arbitrarily composed Canon Law has served as a source of most legal systems in the world. It is the oldest continuous legal system in the world. Therefore, in the church’s eyes, Canon Law is primary and so takes precedence. But all this supposed authority exists purely in the minds, such as they are, of the church hierarchy. No one else has agreed to any of it. Certainly, the Australian government has not agreed to this state of affairs.
So, bishops and the like routinely break the law of the land because they adhere to their own Canon Law believing it to take precedence over state law and also because they are afraid of the penalty of ex-communication should they adhere to government law instead of church law.
This reason is not made known to the public, of course. What they do say publicly is that these church officials, in moving criminal priests around, were endeavouring to protect ‘the good name of the church’. Many people have bought into this idea. The press has bought into it; the Royal Commission has bought into it; and the general public has bought into it, no doubt, following the lead of our social institutions.
But is this reasonable? Does it make sense? I suggest that this reason of protecting ‘the church’s good name’ doesn’t stand up to any sort of close scrutiny.
Let us visit a scene that has occurred countless times over the decades. The parents of a child who has been raped by a priest go to the bishop wanting something done about the priest. They want to be assured that this priest will not offend again and that the church will ensure that this happens.
The bishop, if he takes the charge seriously, will assure the parents that nothing like this has ever happened before and it assuredly will not happen again. The church will take care of it and the parents need not tell any other parishioners or the police that this has occurred. Remember that the bishop is concerned that this will reflect on the otherwise ‘good name of the church’. Or so he says to the parents.
Putting it like this to the parents aligns the church as a potential victim along with the child’s parents. The church is on their side. Or so they believe. The bishop has also invited the parents into a conspiracy of silence against other parishioners and the police.
The paedophile priest concerned is informed that there are complaints about him and he has to see the bishop. What will the paedophile priest want most of all from this meeting? I think it reasonable to expect he will want to be moved out of the parish where he has been uncovered as a paedophile because it may not be safe for him to stay there. Some fathers take exception to their children being raped. In any case, the offending priest will be watched like a hawk and other parishioners will be told to be careful of him with their children. Result? Much less opportunity to indulge his predilection for young children. So he’ll want to move but not to a position that gives him no access to children. He will want to go to another parish where there are unsuspecting children and parents.
Now consider for a moment what you, as the bishop in this scenario, would do. Let’s assume you are mortally afraid of going against Canon Law and so will not inform the police. Let us also assume that you are genuinely concerned about the public image (‘the good name’) of the church. You need to remove the offending priest from the parish because you are afraid that the parents will see that nothing is being done and could go to the police or at least inform other parents in the parish. So he has to be moved, but where to?
Would moving the paedophile to a new parish fix the problem of the priest’s paedophilia? We know, and church officials have known, that this does not fix anything. So the offending will continue. How does this protect ‘the church’s good name’? It doesn’t. So you, as the bishop, would want the paedophile moved to a position where he has absolutely no access to children. But this isn’t what happens, is it?
Moving the paedophile to unsuspecting and greener pastures is exactly what the paedophile wants. It’s the perfect solution for him. He is protected from gossip and possible retaliation and potential problems with the police and free again to indulge his compulsion to rape children.
It is not at all what the parents want for obvious reasons and this is why they are never told that this is what will happen.
And it is not what a bishop concerned with ‘the good name of the church’ wants, either. The offending will continue causing increasing problems into the future for the church and its ‘good name’. It is clearly counterproductive.
So we can say with confidence that any bishop that moves (and sometimes repeatedly moves) a paedophile priest to another parish is clearly not acting in the interests of the church and its ‘good name’. That bishop is unequivocally acting in the interests of the paedophile. He is completely aligned with the paedophile and against the children and their parents and even those who might genuinely be interested in preserving ‘the good name of the church’, such that it is.
The bishop that moves a paedophile to another parish is promoting and spreading paedophilia. That is the fact of the matter and history unequivocally attests to that fact.
Of course, in all of this, at no time do we hear any church official claiming to be acting in the interests of the children in the old or the new parish. That would be laughable if stated plainly, so they never mention it.
Finally, I’ll leave you, the reader, with two questions to answer – what sort of person repeatedly and consistently promotes the interests of paedophiles, spreads paedophilia and works against the safety of the children in his charge? If you had to give this person a label, what would it be?
What would you label an organisation controlled and run by these same people?