Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Two Important Rebuttals

The Vatican website has put a very important Note by Cardinal William J. Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Father Lawrence Murphy case and the misreporting of it by The New York Times.

Not only does he deal with the Murphy case, he deals definitively with the case of the Munich priest who was disciplined while the Pope was Archbishop of Munich

It is a masterly rebuttal of the campaign wrought by this once prestigious newspaper.

It is worth while quoting it in full.

The misreporting of this long forgotten (until recently) case and the Munich priest case did not just have repercussions in the United States. The false statements and innuendoes spread across the globe and were the basis of the misreporting and other major stories run by all newspapers and other media in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and other parts of Western Europe and no doubt the rest of the world.

As a result damage has been cause to the Pope as a "moral and teaching authority" not simply amongst Catholics but also many non-Catholics throughout the Globe.

The aim is not simply to denigrate the present holder of the Office, Pope Benedict XVI and try to make him some sort of "lame duck" Pope. The aim is also to lower the standing and effect of the Office itself.

"The New York Times and Pope Benedict XVI: how it looks to an American in the Vatican

by Cardinal William J. Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

In our melting pot of peoples, languages and backgrounds, Americans are not noted as examples of “high” culture. But we can take pride as a rule in our passion for fairness. In the Vatican where I currently work, my colleagues – whether fellow cardinals at meetings or officials in my office – come from many different countries, continents and cultures. As I write this response today (March 26, 2010) I have had to admit to them that I am not proud of America’s newspaper of record, the New York Times, as a paragon of fairness.

I say this because today’s Times presents both a lengthy article by Laurie Goodstein, a senior columnist, headlined “Warned About Abuse, Vatican Failed to Defrock Priest,” and an accompanying editorial entitled “The Pope and the Pedophilia Scandal,” in which the editors call the Goodstein article a disturbing report (emphasis in original) as a basis for their own charges against the Pope. Both the article and the editorial are deficient by any reasonable standards of fairness that Americans have every right and expectation to find in their major media reporting.

In her lead paragraph, Goodstein relies on what she describes as “newly unearthed files” to point out what the Vatican (i.e. then Cardinal Ratzinger and his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) did not do – “defrock Fr. Murphy.” Breaking news, apparently.

Only after eight paragraphs of purple prose does Goodstein reveal that Fr. Murphy, who criminally abused as many as 200 deaf children while working at a school in the Milwaukee Archdiocese from 1950 to 1974, “not only was never tried or disciplined by the church’s own justice system, but also got a pass from the police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims, according to the documents and interviews with victims.”

But in paragraph 13, commenting on a statement of Fr. Lombardi (the Vatican spokesman) that Church law does not prohibit anyone from reporting cases of abuse to civil authorities, Goodstein writes, “He did not address why that had never happened in this case.”

Did she forget, or did her editors not read, what she wrote in paragraph nine about Murphy getting “a pass from the police and prosecutors”? By her own account it seems clear that criminal authorities had been notified, most probably by the victims and their families.

Goodstein’s account bounces back and forth as if there were not some 20 plus years intervening between reports in the 1960 and 70’s to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and local police, and Archbishop Weakland’s appeal for help to the Vatican in 1996.

Why? Because the point of the article is not about failures on the part of church and civil authorities to act properly at the time. I, for one, looking back at this report agree that Fr. Murphy deserved to be dismissed from the clerical state for his egregious criminal behavior, which would normally have resulted from a canonical trial.

The point of Goodstein’s article, however, is to attribute the failure to accomplish this dismissal to Pope Benedict, instead of to diocesan decisions at the time. She uses the technique of repeating the many escalating charges and accusations from various sources (not least from her own newspaper), and tries to use these “newly unearthed files” as the basis for accusing the pope of leniency and inaction in this case and presumably in others.

It seems to me, on the other hand, that we owe Pope Benedict a great debt of gratitude for introducing the procedures that have helped the Church to take action in the face of the scandal of priestly sexual abuse of minors. These efforts began when the Pope served as Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and continued after he was elected Pope.

That the Times has published a series of articles in which the important contribution he has made – especially in the development and implementation of Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela, the Motu proprio issued by Pope John Paul II in 2001 – is ignored, seems to me to warrant the charge of lack of fairness which should be the hallmark of any reputable newspaper.

Let me tell you what I think a fair reading of the Milwaukee case would seem to indicate. The reasons why church and civil authorities took no action in the 1960’s and 70’s is apparently not contained in these “newly emerged files.” Nor does the Times seem interested in finding out why.

But what does emerge is this: after almost 20 years as Archbishop, Weakland wrote to the Congregation asking for help in dealing with this terrible case of serial abuse. The Congregation approved his decision to undertake a canonical trial, since the case involved solicitation in confession – one of the graviora delicta (most grave crimes) for which the Congregation had responsibility to investigate and take appropriate action.

Only when it learned that Murphy was dying did the Congregation suggest to Weakland that the canonical trial be suspended, since it would involve a lengthy process of taking testimony from a number of deaf victims from prior decades, as well as from the accused priest. Instead it proposed measures to ensure that appropriate restrictions on his ministry be taken. Goodstein infers that this action implies “leniency” toward a priest guilty of heinous crimes.

My interpretation would be that the Congregation realized that the complex canonical process would be useless if the priest were dying. Indeed, I have recently received an unsolicited letter from the judicial vicar who was presiding judge in the canonical trial telling me that he never received any communication about suspending the trial, and would not have agreed to it.

But Fr. Murphy had died in the meantime. As a believer, I have no doubt that Murphy will face the One who judges both the living and the dead.

Goodstein also refers to what she calls “other accusations” about the reassignment of a priest who had previously abused a child/children in another diocese by the Archdiocese of Munich. But the Archdiocese has repeatedly explained that the responsible Vicar General, Mons. Gruber, admitted his mistake in making that assignment.

It is anachronistic for Goodstein and the Times to imply that the knowledge about sexual abuse that we have in 2010 should have somehow been intuited by those in authority in 1980. It is not difficult for me to think that Professor Ratzinger, appointed as Archbishop of Munich in 1977, would have done as most new bishops do: allow those already in place in an administration of 400 or 500 people to do the jobs assigned to them.

As I look back on my own personal history as a priest and bishop, I can say that in 1980 I had never heard of any accusation of such sexual abuse by a priest. It was only in 1985, as an Auxiliary Bishop attending a meeting of our U.S. Bishops’ Conference where data on this matter was presented, that I became aware of some of the issues. In 1986, when I was appointed Archbishop in Portland, I began to deal personally with accusations of the crime of sexual abuse, and although my “learning curve” was rapid, it was also limited by the particular cases called to my attention.

Here are a few things I have learned since that time: many child victims are reluctant to report incidents of sexual abuse by clergy. When they come forward as adults, the most frequent reason they give is not to ask for punishment of the priest, but to make the bishop and personnel director aware so that other children can be spared the trauma that they have experienced.

In dealing with priests, I learned that many priests, when confronted with accusations from the past, spontaneously admitted their guilt. On the other hand, I also learned that denial is not uncommon. I have found that even programs of residential therapy have not succeeded in breaking through such denial in some cases. Even professional therapists did not arrive at a clear diagnosis in some of these cases; often their recommendations were too vague to be helpful. On the other hand, therapists have been very helpful to victims in dealing with the long-range effects of their childhood abuse. In both Portland and San Francisco where I dealt with issues of sexual abuse, the dioceses always made funds available (often through diocesan insurance coverage) for therapy to victims of sexual abuse.

From the point of view of ecclesiastical procedures, the explosion of the sexual abuse question in the United States led to the adoption, at a meeting of the Bishops’ Conference in Dallas in 2002, of a “Charter for the Protection of Minors from Sexual Abuse.”

This Charter provides for uniform guidelines on reporting sexual abuse, on structures of accountability (Boards involving clergy, religious and laity, including experts), reports to a national Board, and education programs for parishes and schools in raising awareness and prevention of sexual abuse of children. In a number of other countries similar programs have been adopted by Church authorities: one of the first was adopted by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in response to the Nolan Report made by a high-level commission of independent experts in 2001.

It was only in 2001, with the publication of Pope John Paul II’s Motu proprio Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela (SST), that responsibility for guiding the Catholic Church’s response to the problem of sexual abuse of minors by clerics was assigned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

This papal document was prepared for Pope John Paul II under the guidance of Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Contrary to some media reports, SST did not remove the local bishop’s responsibility for acting in cases of reported sexual abuse of minors by clerics. Nor was it, as some have theorized, part of a plot from on high to interfere with civil jurisdiction in such cases.

Instead, SST directs bishops to report credible allegations of abuse to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is able to provide a service to the bishops to ensure that cases are handled properly, in accord with applicable ecclesiastical law.

Here are some of the advances made by this new Church legislation (SST). It has allowed for a streamlined administrative process in arriving at a judgment, thus reserving the more formal process of a canonical trial to more complex cases.

This has been of particular advantage in missionary and small dioceses that do not have a strong complement of well-trained canon lawyers. It provides for erecting inter-diocesan tribunals to assist small dioceses. The Congregation has faculties allowing it derogate from the prescription of a crime (statute of limitations) in order to permit justice to be done even for “historical” cases.

Moreover, SST has amended canon law in cases of sexual abuse to adjust the age of a minor to 18 to correspond with the civil law in many countries today. It provides a point of reference for bishops and religious superiors to obtain uniform advice about handling priests’ cases.

Perhaps most of all, it has designated cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics as graviora delicta: most grave crimes, like the crimes against the sacraments of Eucharist and Penance perennially assigned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This in itself has shown the seriousness with which today’s Church undertakes its responsibility to assist bishops and religious superiors to prevent these crimes from happening in the future, and to punish them when they happen.

Here is a legacy of Pope Benedict that greatly facilitates the work of the Congregation which I now have the privilege to lead, to the benefit of the entire Church.

After the Dallas Charter in 2002, I was appointed (at the time as Archbishop of San Francisco) to a team of four bishops to seek approval of the Holy See for the “Essential Norms” that the American Bishops developed to allow us to deal with abuse questions. Because these norms intersected with existing canon law, they required approval before being implemented as particular law for our country. Under the chairmanship of Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and currently President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, our team worked with Vatican canonical experts at several meetings.

We found in Cardinal Ratzinger, and in the experts he assigned to meet with us, a sympathetic understanding of the problems we faced as American bishops. Largely through his guidance we were able to bring our work to a successful conclusion.

The Times editorial wonders “how Vatican officials did not draw the lessons of the grueling scandal in the United States, where more than 700 priests were dismissed over a three-year period.” I can assure the Times that the Vatican in reality did not then and does not now ignore those lessons.

But the Times editorial goes on to show the usual bias: “But then we read Laurie Goodstein’s disturbing report . . .about how the pope, while he was still a cardinal, was personally warned about a priest … But church leaders chose to protect the church instead of children. The report illuminated the kind of behavior the church was willing to excuse to avoid scandal.” Excuse me, editors. Even the Goodstein article, based on “newly unearthed files,” places the words about protecting the Church from scandal on the lips of Archbishop Weakland, not the pope. It is just this kind of anachronistic conflation that I think warrants my accusation that the Times, in rushing to a guilty verdict, lacks fairness in its coverage of Pope Benedict.

As a full-time member of the Roman Curia, the governing structure that carries out the Holy See’s tasks, I do not have time to deal with the Times’s subsequent almost daily articles by Rachel Donadio and others, much less with Maureen Dowd’s silly parroting of Goodstein’s “disturbing report.”

But about a man with and for whom I have the privilege of working, as his “successor” Prefect, a pope whose encyclicals on love and hope and economic virtue have both surprised us and made us think, whose weekly catecheses and Holy Week homilies inspire us, and yes, whose pro-active work to help the Church deal effectively with the sexual abuse of minors continues to enable us today, I ask the Times to reconsider its attack mode about Pope Benedict XVI and give the world a more balanced view of a leader it can and should count on. "

Meanwhile Archbishop Dolan of New York has not been idle. He continues his spirited defence of the Pope in relation to the Murphy case.

His case is put clearly and succinctly and with care and courtesy. Again it is worthwhile quoting it in its entirety.

New York is indeed fortunate to have a bishop of his ability.

""The second story, sprayed all over the New York Times this week, and predictably copied by the world’s press, is groundless.

(I am grateful for Father Raymond de Souza’s excellent piece posted at National Review Online which goes through the story point by point.)

The report accuses Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of preventing a priest whose sins and crimes can only be described as diabolical, one Lawrence Murphy, from facing proper penalties in the Church for the serial abuse of deaf minors.

While the report on the nauseating abuse is bitterly true, the insinuation against Cardinal Ratzinger is not, and gives every indication of being part of a well-oiled campaign against Pope Benedict.

Here’s a summary of the key points:

The New York Times relied on tort lawyers who currently have civil suits pending against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Holy See, who are aggressively supporting the radical measure right now before the Wisconsin legislature to abrogate the statute of limitations on civil cases of abuse, and who have high financial interest in the matter being reported. Hardly an impartial source…

The documentation that allegedly supports these sensational charges is published on the website of the New York Times; rather than confirming their theory, the documents instead show that there is no evidence at all that Cardinal Ratzinger ever blocked any decision about Murphy. Even a New York Times columnist, Ross Douthat, calls this charge “unfair” in his column of March 29.

We also find on the website a detailed timeline of all the sickening information about Murphy, data not “uncovered” by any reporter but freely released by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee a number of years back, and thoroughly covered at that time by the local media in Milwaukee. One wonders why this story, quite exhaustively reported in the past, rose again this very week. It is hardly “news.” One might therefore ask: Why is this news now? The only reason it is news at all is because of the implication that Cardinal Ratzinger was involved. Yet the documentation does not support that charge, and thus they should have no place in a putatively respectable newspaper.

Nothing in this non-news merits the tsunami of headlines, stories, and diatribes against the Church and this Pope that we have endured this past week.

There was legitimate news last week that should have received much more attention than it did. It was the annual independent audit report on American dioceses on compliance with our own tough Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. For those who profess to be so interested in the welfare of the young, the news should have been trumpeted as stunning progress. Catholics deeply disturbed by lurid tales of wicked behavior twenty or thirty years ago might have been surprised to discover:

The Church has had in place strict protocols and preventative measures to stop this from happening again. Last week’s audit reported that six million children in our schools and religious education programs underwent safe environment training – that’s 96% of the children in our care. Background evaluations were completed on two million priests, deacons, seminarians, educators, employees and volunteers.

Last week’s audit reported that there were six (6) credible allegations of sexual abuse of current minors for the entire year, in a Church of more than 60 million members. Though one would be too many, the percent is dramatically lower than experts tell us is the sad national average, and is only known because the Church is transparent in reporting.

In the spirit of no good deed goes unpunished, the false allegations of last week have obscured the good work that the Cardinal Ratzinger did at the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and as Pope. Beginning in 2001, as ably described by respected journalist John Allen, and also mentioned recently by Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, Cardinal Ratzinger brought about a profound change in how sexual abuse cases were handled. The details are many, but the effect was clear.

It became easier to remove priests who have committed these crimes from ministry very quickly, and often, dismissed from the priesthood altogether. Since his election, Pope Benedict has repeatedly demonstrated that even high-ranking priests are to be held accountable, and has not minced words about the failures of his brother bishops – both here in the United States and just last week, in his letter to the Catholics of Ireland.

This failure to report in similar detail today’s successes and yesterday’s failures suggests the bias I wrote about last fall.

This is also about simply telling the truth, or more to the point, about peddling falsehoods to destroy the Holy Father’s good name. It needs to be called what it is – scandalous."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Seven Last Words

Filippo Brunelleschi 1377-1446
Cappella Gondi (Gondi Chapel)
North transept, Santa Maria Novella, Florence

Joseph Haydn's 'Seven Last Words from the Cross' - Introduction: Maestoso ed Adagio - as performed by the Navarra Quartet.This performance was a part of the 2009 City of London Festival and took place in the Church of St. Stephen, Walbrook, on the 26th of June 2009.The Navarra Quartet consist of: Xander van Vliet (Violin), Marije Ploemacher (Violin), Simone van der Giessen (Viola), Nathaniel Boyd (Cello).

The Seven Last Words of Christ was composed by Joseph Haydn, featuring seven meditations on the last words of Jesus Christ. It was commissioned in 1787 for the Good Friday service at the Grotto Santa Cueva near Cádiz in southern Spain.

Haydn wrote the following about the work:

"Some fifteen years ago I was requested by a canon of Cádiz to compose instrumental music on the seven last words of Our Saviour on the Cross.

It was customary at the Cathedral of Cádiz to produce an oratorio every year during Lent, the effect of the performance being not a little enhanced by the following circumstances.

The walls, windows, and pillars of the church were hung with black cloth, and only one large lamp hanging from the center of the roof broke the solemn darkness.

At midday, the doors were closed and the ceremony began. After a short service the bishop ascended the pulpit, pronounced the first of the seven words (or sentences) and delivered a discourse thereon. This ended, he left the pulpit and fell to his knees before the altar. The interval was filled by music.

The bishop then in like manner pronounced the second word, then the third, and so on, the orchestra following on the conclusion of each discourse.

My composition was subject to these conditions, and it was no easy task to compose seven adagios lasting ten minutes each, and to succeed one another without fatiguing the listeners; indeed, I found it quite impossible to confine myself to the appointed limits"

'Pater, dimitte illis, quia nesciunt, quid faciunt'

'Hodie mecum eris in Paradiso'

'Mulier, ecce filius tuus'

'Deus meus, Deus meus, utquid dereliquisti me'


'Consummatum est'

'In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum'

It ends with "Il Terremoto" (The Earthquake)

Recently on the Feast of St Joseph (Friday, 19 March 2010) there was a concert at the Clementine Hall to celebrate the Pope`s patron saint`s day (the Pope`s onomastico)

After the concert the Pope gave a short address:

"The last seven words of our Redeemer on the Cross is truly one of the most sublime examples in the field of music of how it is possible to unite art and faith.

The musician's composition is wholly inspired and almost "directed" by the Gospel texts that culminate in the words Jesus uttered before drawing his last breath.

However, in addition to being bound by the text, the composer was also bound by the precise conditions imposed by those who commissioned the work, dictated by the particular type of celebration in which the music was to be performed.

And it was precisely on the basis of these very strict obligations that he could manifest the full excellence of his creative genius. Having to conceive of seven dramatic and meditative sonatas, Haydn focused on their intensity, as he himself said in a letter of the time:

"Every sonata, or every text, is expressed by means of instrumental music alone so that it will necessarily inspire the most profound impression in the listener's soul, even in someone who is least attentive" (Letter to W. Forster, 8 April 1787).

In this there is something similar to the work of the sculptor who must constantly be able to master the material with which he is working—let us think of the marble of Michelangelo's "Pieta"—and yet succeed in making this matter eloquent, in eliciting from it a unique and unrepeatable synthesis of thought and emotion, an absolutely original artistic expression but which, at the same time, is totally at the service of that precise content of faith as if it were dominated by the event it is portraying—in our case the seven words and their context.

Here is concealed a universal law of artistic expression: the ability to communicate beauty, which is also goodness and truth, by a tangible means a painting, a piece of music, a sculpture, a written text, a dance, etc.

Indeed, it is the same law that God followed to communicate himself and his love to us: he became incarnate in our human flesh and realized the greatest masterpiece of all Creation: "the one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus", as St Paul wrote (1 Tim 2:5).

The "harder" the material, the more demanding are the bonds of expression and the more visibly the artist's genius stands out.

Thus on the "hard" Cross, God spoke in Christ the most beautiful, the truest Word of love, which is Jesus in his full and definitive gift of himself. He is God's last word, not in a chronological but in a qualitative sense.

He is the universal, absolute Word, but it was spoken through that real man, in that time and in that place, in that "hour", John's Gospel says.

This binding of oneself to history, to the flesh, is a sign par excellence of faithfulness, of a love so free that it does not fear to be bound for ever, to express the infinite in the finite, the whole in the fragment.

This law, which is the law of love, is also the law of art in its highest expressions.

Dear friends, perhaps I have carried on this reflection a bit too long, but the blame or perhaps the merit belongs to Franz Joseph Haydn.

Let us thank the Lord for these great artistic geniuses who felt able to illustrate his Word Jesus Christ and his words the Sacred Scriptures. I renew my thanks to all who conceived of and prepared this tribute: may the Lord lavishly reward each one. "

Archbishop Weakland on the Pope

Retired Archbishop Rembert G Weakland was the Archbishop who began the proceedings against Lawrence Murphy.

He gave an interview on BBC Radio 4 with Eddie Mair on Thursday, 25 March 2010

You can listen to the interview in full on the above link.

The following important points came out in the interview:

1. Despite the invitation by the questioner to say that he wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger and there was a delay in the responding to him, the Archbishop makes it quite clear that he wrote to the Congregation of the Faith and that it was the Congregation of the Faith which was responsible for the delay in responding to his letter. The delay was not at the instance of Cardinal Ratzinger.

2. He is sure that Cardinal Ratzinger had no personal involvement in the case

3. The matter was dealt with at the Congregation of the Faith by the then Archbishop Bertone and his experts in Canon Law.

4. Weakland says that he only involved the Congregation of the Faith in the proceedings because there were allegations that there was abusive acts not in the confessional but after the penitents had exited the confessional. This is in line with the direction given to bishops in 1962 by the then Holy Office in Crimen Sollicitationis

5. He launched the canonical proceedings against Lawrence Murphy to "defrock" him because there were divisions in the deaf community about Lawrence Murphy: there were the "older members" who did not believe the allegations of abuse and who loved and respected him; there were "younger members" who made the complaints of abuse and were not believed.

He said that it was clear that Lawrence Murphy was ill and he wanted to signify to the deaf community the condemnation of the church. He wanted Murphy to die as a layman and not be buried with a clerical collar on his neck.

6. He says of the meeting (at the Vatican in May shortly before Murphy died ) between himself on the one part and Bertone and his canon law advisors on the other part that they did not seem to understand his concerns to ensure that Murphy was "defrocked". He says that they had tried restrictions on Murphy in the past and these had not worked.

However, very tellingly, he also admits that with hindsight he feels that he should have acted ten years before he did to start the proceedings to laicise Murphy.

However he does not seem to grasp the important point about any form of judicial proceedings. They have to be fair to all parties and that includes the accused. There were very difficult problems about proceedings concerning events which happend nearly thirty five years before.

At that time in Canon Law there was no power for the bishop, the Congregation of the Faith or anyone else at the Vatican to act summarily and without any form of due process.

It was only after the reforms in 2001 which the then Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Bertone campaigned for were these greater powers obtained. And it was under them afterwards that these powers were used zealously to great effect

Note the spin on the interview given by the BBC on the web page:

"For the first time, the Pope himself has been implicated over sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.

He is accused of doing nothing when given the chance to defrock a priest, Rev Lawrence Murphy, who molested deaf boys in his care.

The BBC's Eddie Mair has spoken to Rembert G. Weakland, who, in 1996, when he was Archbishop of Milwaukee, tried to blow the whistle.

He wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger, who is now Pope, and had a meeting with his then deputy, Cardinal Bertone, who is now the Vatican's secretary of state.

He told the PM programme that when he became Archbishop of Milwaukee in 1977, Father Murphy already had many abuse allegations against him."

1. The statement of the accusation of the Pope doing nothing "when given the chance to defrock a priest"

In other versions he is accused of blocking the prosecution

2. Weakland is portrayed as "a whistleblower".

Actually Weakland was not a whistleblower. As the Bishop of the Diocese he was the one and the only one responsible since 1977 for allowing the situation to continue whereby Lawrence Murphy was still allowed to wear "a clerical collar"

3. It is stated that Weakland wrote to the then Cardinal Ratzinger. Weakland in his interview made it clear that (1) he wrote to the Congregation of the Faith rather than Cardinal Ratzinger personally and (2) he was sure that Cardinal Ratzinger had no personal involvement in the case

The Pope and the Wisconsin Child Abuse Case

Damian Thompson in The Daily Telegraph today has an interesting article The Pope, the judge, the paedophile priest and The New York Times.

He refers and includes the full article by Fr Brundage, the priest who presided at the tribunal which proceeded against Fr Lawrence Murphy, the priest who abused about 200 deaf children in the boarding school which he ran in Milwaukee. (see posts below)

The original is at Catholic Anchor, the website of the Diocese of Anchorage: Setting the record straight in the case of abusive Milwaukee priest Father Lawrence Murphy.

Rather surprisingly Father Brundage was not contacted by The New York Times prior to the publication of its article about the case of the Wisconsin priest Lawrence Murphy

Amongst the important points made by Father Brundage are:

1. "Pope Benedict XVI has done more than any other pope or bishop in history to rid the Catholic Church of the scourge of child sexual abuse and provide for those who have been injured"

2. "with regard to the role of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), in this matter, I have no reason to believe that he was involved at all. Placing this matter at his doorstep is a huge leap of logic and information."

3. "Third, the competency to hear cases of sexual abuse of minors shifted from the Roman Rota to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith headed by Cardinal Ratzinger in 2001. Until that time, most appeal cases went to the Rota and it was our experience that cases could languish for years in this court. When the competency was changed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in my observation as well as many of my canonical colleagues, sexual abuse cases were handled expeditiously, fairly, and with due regard to the rights of all the parties involved. I have no doubt that this was the work of then Cardinal Ratzinger."

Now when will the Press and the television accept that the then Cardinal Ratzinger did nothing wrong in the Lawrence Murphy case ?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

NY archbishop defends Pope against sex abuse furore

After the Palm Sunday Mass, Archbishop Dolan of New York launched into a one hour speech defending the Pope against the recent accusations of personal involvement in covering up recent sex abuse cases.

The reaction of the congregation was favourable and he was given a twenty second standing ovation.

It was a passionate and reasoned speech. One hopes that more will come to the defence of the Pope.

"NEW YORK — Archbishop Timothy Dolan was greeted with applause after finishing Palm Sunday Mass by defending Pope Benedict XVI against suggestions he aided cover-ups of reports of child abuse.

The standing-room-only crowd at St. Patrick's Cathedral applauded for 20 seconds after Dolan read a statement calling the pope the "leader in purification, reform and renewal that the church so very much needs."

Still, Dolan said reports of abuse of minors by some priests in Ireland and Germany and the retelling of the abuse of children by a priest in Wisconsin had "knocked us to our knees once again" and intensified the somberness of Holy Week, the most sacred time on the Christian calendar.

He urged the Manhattan congregation to pray for the Pope, saying he was suffering some of the same unjust accusations once faced by Jesus.

"Anytime this horror, this vicious sin, this nauseating crime is reported, as it needs to be, victims and their families are wounded again, the vast majority of faithful priests bow their heads in shame anew and sincere Catholics like you experience another dose of shock, sorrow and even anger," Dolan said.

He added: "What deepens the sadness now is the unrelenting insinuations against the Holy Father himself, as certain sources seem almost frenzied to implicate the man." ...

Dolan in his homily also didn't mention the scandal, but a church spokesman alerted reporters in the crowd that he would make a statement at the end of the Mass, which lasted more than an hour.

Dolan credited the Pope for making possible the progress the Catholic Church has made in the United States against "this sickening sin and crime," saying changes "could never have happened without the insistence and support of the very man now being daily crowned with thorns by groundless innuendo."

He asked whether the church and the Pope "need intense scrutiny and just criticism for tragic horrors long past?"

"Yes! Yes!" he said, answering his question. "He himself has asked for it, encouraging complete honesty, at the same time eloquently expressing contrition and urging a thorough cleansing.

"All we ask is that it be fair and that the Catholic Church not be singled out for a horror that has cursed every culture, religion, organization, institution, school, agency and family in the world," he said.

Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, marks Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and the laying of palm fronds before him. Outside the cathedral Sunday, worshippers emerging from the service with palm fronds were largely supportive of Dolan's remarks.

"I thought it was very well put," said Inga Yungwirth, of Hagerstown, Md. "It doesn't shake my faith."

Earlier, several protesters had gathered outside the Gothic-style cathedral, which sits on Fifth Avenue opposite Rockefeller Center.

"Honk if Pope should resign," said one sign, which attracted only an occasional toot from drivers."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Calling Cardinal Newman

Jane Fortescue Seymour (1825-1878)
Portrait drawing of the very Rev. John Henry Newman, later Cardinal Newman
1875 or earlier
Drawing black chalk
73 × 51 cm (28.74 × 20.08 in)
Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1875

Blessed Cardinal Newman, you should be living at this hour.

Your intellect, clarity of thought, debating skills and great literary talents are needed at this time.

The personal attacks on the Pope continue over the sex abuse scandals.

There is one case where he is accused of personal culpability: Father Lawrence Murphy, the pedophile priest in Wisconsin who assaulted over 200 children in his care in a very lengthy period.

The news reports in the United Kingdom (even the normally quite sensible) have discussions by pundits of "a smoking gun" (with the innuendo of Watergate) and of a Pope fatally compromised and weakened in his Office through his alleged "personal guilt" because of this case and one in Germany

The so-called "indictment" against the Pope constantly changes. It is always difficult to put forward a complete defence unless the charges are formulated in reasonably precise terms.

It is of course classic "smear": fire a hundred bullets at a target on a door and maybe one may hit a target, but in the meantime the door is entirely destroyed. In any event the show sounds and looks impressive.

The Times in a leader has attempted to put forward its case against the Pope. It is in its leader. It states the position thus:

""The steady drip of revelations about the indolence of the official response to cases of child abuse has sapped Pope Benedict’s authority, and the scandal has now reached him directly.

So far, his spokesmen have given a brush-off rather than an explanation. But an explanation is urgently required, for the good of the victims and of the Church.

The Pope faces accusations that in the 1990s, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he failed to discipline priests who had molested children and did not alert the civil authorities. Father Lawrence Murphy, a priest in Wisconsin, taught at a school for deaf children from 1950 to 1974. He assaulted 200 children in his care. Documents in the case claim that successive archbishops failed to report allegations against Murphy to the police. Eventually, the case was forwarded to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Cardinal Ratzinger led. But two letters sent to him in 1996 about the Murphy case from Rembert Weakland, then the Archbishop of Milwaukee, went unanswered.

When Cardinal Ratzinger’s second-in-command instructed Wisconsin’s bishops to initiate a canonical trial, the proceedings were peremptorily stopped after Murphy wrote directly to the Cardinal. If found guilty, Murphy would have been defrocked. His plea to Cardinal Ratzinger was that he repented, was in failing health and desired to live the remainder of his life as a priest. Murphy died two years later, with an ostensibly unsullied record as a priest. These are allegations of utmost gravity. In responding to them, the Pope has been ill served by his spokesman, who declared yesterday that the lack of more recent allegations against Murphy was a factor in the decision not to defrock him.

Child abuse — less euphemistically, the rape and sexual torture of children — by priests has been uncovered in many countries. Those crimes and a failure adequately to acknowledge and atone for them have inflicted immense damage on the Church’s moral witness.

Awesome crimes have been committed by Roman Catholic priests who found their opportunity in their clerical office. Having perpetrated evil, they then found refuge within the Church. The Pope stands accused of acquiescing in that sanctuary. Sadly, he has a case to answer. "

The Murphy case is not a difficult one for the Vatican to defend the Pope personally

As The Times states, the allegations against the Pope personally in the Murphy case appear to be "of utmost gravity":

1. After Murphy wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger personally, the process to defrock him stopped
2. The reason for this is "implied": Murphy pleaded that he had repented and that he was in failing health and desired to live the remainder of his life as a priest.
3. The then Cardinal Ratzinger wrongly accepted that as a plea to stop proceedings and by accepting that plea the then Cardinal Ratzinger acquiesced in giving sanctuary to someone who had wrought such terrible damage to his victims.

The story originated in The New York Times. The New York Times helpfully reproduces the documents on which it bases its story. The Vatican`s defence of the Pope is in the documents.

Read them here under the banner "The Document Trail: The Predator Priest Who Got Away"

Be warned: the documents are in places extremely unpleasant reading.

Who was Father Lawrence Murphy ?

Lawrence Murphy was an extremely disgusting and repellent individual. He preyed on deaf children who were entrusted to his care. He grossly abused his position of trust. Not only did he sexually abuse his charges (at least two hundred cases are documented) but he also abused them while he was hearing their confessions. He used his clerical collar as his disguise to molest and torture deaf children in his care in the boarding school which he ran for 22 years. The abuse took place in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

The abuse took place froom 1950 until they came to public attention in 1974.

The papers of the Archdiocese about how it handled the investigations at that time were lost.

Victims also reported the matter to the civil authorities in 1974 and thereafter but no prosecutions were instigated.

Instead of being disciplined, Murphy was  moved by Archbishop William E. Cousins of Milwaukee to the Diocese of Superior in northern Wisconsin in 1974, where he lived with his mother. He tried to continue his work with children in parishes, schools and, as one lawsuit charges, a juvenile detention centre and in some cases succeeded for a number of years.

There is an extraordinary letter in the correspondence from the then auxiliary Bishop of Superior (Fliss) in 1980 to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee recommending Murphy "for the deaf apostolate"

Fortunately since 1974 he was never given any such ministry except on an "informal" basis. But it does appear that unofficially he was giving retreats for deaf people and carrying out what he thought was his "apostolate to the deaf". In fact this so-called "apostolate" was persisted into the 1990s even while canonical process was commenced and continued

In December 1993 the Archdiocese of Milwaukee commissioned a report by an independent expert. Murphy was interviewed for a number of hours by the expert. It paints a horrifying portrait of this individual.

Murphy confessed that he had done what he had been accused of by the victims in 1974. The scale of the sexual activity was not minimal in the least.

It also brought to light that he had used the confessional as a means of securing information about which victims he would choose and in which he solicited for sexual activity. He did have a profile for selecting a victim that he would pursue. He deliberately preyed on the vulnerable and those who lacked protection. The element of calculation in the abuse is breath taking. He lacked any insight into his conduct. He did not appear to appreciate or realise the harm which he had inflicted on the victims. He did not appear to be quite sane.

What started the canonical process ?

Rather surprisingly, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in December 1993 did not start the canonical process against Murphy when it received the expert`s report. Based on what the expert had told the expert, it might have been thought that the case should have been a "slam dunk". Whether the Archdiocese took any action at all at that time is not evident from the papers. It would appear not

It would appear from the papers that it was only in December 1995 after the Archdiocese received claims from attorneys on behalf of clients and also representations from the deaf community that the then Archbishop Weakland set up an investigation. The Archbishop then went on a sabbatical from 1st January 1996 and did not return till 1st July 1996.

While the Archbishop was away, the investigator discovered about 100 - 150 victims.

In July 1996 the Archbishop of Milwaukee wrote his letter to the then Cardinal Ratzinger in his capacity as Prefect of the CDF. It was a formal letter. It concerned not only Murphy but another priest, Father Neuberger. Both were to be charged with solicitation in the confessional as the facts had only "recently ... come to light".

It sought Ratzinger`s advice. The letter said that as a result of legal researches it was now learnt that the offence of solicitation came within the jurisdiction of the CDF and he sought Ratzinger`s advice as to how to proceed.

From the correspondence produced by The New York Times there does appear to be a follow up letter by Weakland to the CDF on 10th December 1996 asking for a reply to the earlier letter of July 1996

The Process Begins

Also on 10th December 1996 the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in terms of the Canon Law then formally notified Murphy of the charges under Canon Law which it intended to pursue against him and then served the necessary documentation on him. The charges were three in number:

1. two in relation to solicitation in the confessional
2. sexual abuse of minors under the age of sixteen.

All the charges related to events in the period 1950 to 1974 that is to say while he was at the School for the Deaf in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Bertone at the CDF replies

On 24 March 1997 the then Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone replied to the two letters of Weakland.

He advised that proceedings should be instituted against the two clerics in terms of Crimen sollicitationis the so called `Secret` instructions from the Vatican in 1962 on disciplinary procedures for priests suspected of sexual abuse.

In his letter he drew attention to two articles of the Instruction: Article 5 which is to the effect that bishops may supervise or delegate the disciplinary process; and Article 55 which is to the effect that the defence must be given sufficient time to prepare.

A Plea in Bar of Trial

Meanwhile in February 1997 there was an informal discussion between the Canon lawyer acting for Murphy and the members of the Tribunal. It would appear that the defence was arguing that the 1962 Rules stipulated that there was a limitation period of 30 days from the date of the offence of sollitation in the confessional. The Tribunal thought that there was a limitation period of 5 years from the date of the offence. In either case, it was thought that permission would have to be sought from the Vatican that the limitation period be waived.

As a result Weakland wrote on 10th March 1997 to the Prefect for the Supreme Tribunal of the Segnatura at the Vatican (Chief Justice) for a waiver of the period of limitation.

On 9th April 1997 the Supreme Tribunal wrote to Weakland saying that they were not competent to grant the request. The matter had to be dealt with by the CDF and they were passing the request along to the CDF in view of the urgency of the situation.

On 14th May 1997 Weakland replied to Bertone`s letter of 24th March 1997 thanking him for his letter and confirming that the matter would proceed notwithstanding "the peremptory time periods have expired according to both the 1962 norms as well as " the Code of Canon Law of 1983.

Realisation that the Proceedings were in the Wrong Forum: Not Milwaukee but Superior

After May 1997 it would appear that someone at the Milwaukee Archdiocese realised that the proceedings raised against Murphy had been raised in the wrong forum or Court. The Milwaukee Diocese did not have jurisdiction.

There is an interesting memorandum on the New York Times papers. It is dated 31st October 1997. The Archdiocese did not have jurisdiction. Jurisdiction rested with the diocese of the accused`s domicile: the Diocese of Superior.

Murphy had been domiciled in the Diocese of Superior since 1974. It is hard to see why such a fundamental mistake was made.

Proceedings start again in Superior

On 14 December 1997 proceedings started all over again (as they had to) in Superior against Murphy

On 6th January 1998 the accused was cited to appear again this time before the correct Tribunal

On 5th January 1998 the Milwaukee Diocese explained the position to the victims. The Diocese was perhaps "economical with the truth".

In a letter the Milwaukee Tribunal wrote to the victims saying:

The Memorandum and the Letter of 5th January 1998

The Memorandum and the Letter of 5th January 1998 are also important. These are sufficient evidence that even before the Tribunal started its task and started the hearing it had already made up its mind about the verdict. Murphy was guilty and had to be laicised as quickly as possible.

The members of the Tribunal were compromised themselves and should have asked to be excused. Murphy denied the charges. He was at the least entitled to an impartial Tribunal and a conviction based on the evidence presented at the hearing and in accordance with the 1962 Rules. A Tribunal with a new composition should have been set up to hear the case. By hearing the case without a change in composition, the Tribunal simply provided Murphy with an opportunity for an additional ground of appeal to the Vatican

Murphy`s Letter to Cardinal Ratzinger

On 12th January 1998 Murphy wrote his letter to Cardinal Ratzinger. This is the letter which has caused the present controversy.

It is worth while examining the letter carefully

One might think from the furore that this was a personal letter written by a man dying of cancer in pathetic terms which tugged at the then Cardinal`s heart strings and allowed him to forget all considerations and grant mercy to a dying man

It is of course nothing of the sort.

It is a formal legal appeal to the CDF seeking to quash the citation which he had received after 6th January 1998 ordaining him to appear before the Tribunal in Superior in January. He wanted his Winter holiday in Florida which would last a few months and he did not want it interrupted by proceedings in Superior at that time of year.

He wanted to slow the proceedings down. He was playing for more time.

Anyone reading this letter would not be fooled.

Paragraph 4 is a plea against the irregularity of the proceedings to date especially that the new Tribunal is being manned by the staff of the old Milwaukee Tribunal, in other words it was not a new tribunal but the old Tribunal sitting under a different guise or label. In other words he is pleading that the Tribunal is wrongly constituted and that there is an irregularity. he is preparing the ground for a future appeal.

Paragraph 5 is a legal plea as to the actions being time barred

Paragraph 6 is the offending passage which has caused the commotion in the press. It is the plea of ill health and old age and the request for mercy from a dying man.

Paragraph 7 is the paragraph instructing the CDF to reply to his lawyer while he is on holiday in Florida.

It is not the work of a man on his death bed who has just had another stroke.

Personal involvement of the Pope ?

Although all the correspondence to the CDF is addressed to the then Cardinal Ratzinger, it is to him as Prefect of the CDF. All the correspondence is formal correspondence.

In other words one would not expect the Cardinal to read and deal with the letters personally. The matters were in fact dealt with personally by his deputy, the then Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, now of course Cardinal and Secretary of State.

In the same way as when one addresses formal correspondence to a Government Department one does not expect the Government Minister to read and personally deal with it. The matter will be dealt with by someone lower down the "food chain".

The CDF gets involved

When one reads the correspondence with the CDF and the memoranda of meetings between the CDF and the Archdiocese, one gets the impression of the CDF trying to delicately point out to the Archdiocese/Diocese where it was legally going wrong in terms of the relevant Canon Law.The Archdiocese had already made major errors in the process even before the formal trial had started.

There were still some errors of law made by the now Diocese of Superior which were pointed out by the CDF. These had to be corrected e.g. in the original document the Bishop should have stated that other rememdies had been considered and rejected. This was omitted and the Bishop had to serve a document stating this before the process could continue.

The CDF and its officials seemed to be trying to guide the American diocese so that there would not be a successful appeal against conviction and that would mean that the process would have to start again.

One major point was the quality of the evidence. As Archbishop Bertone pointed out the evidence was in relation to events that had happened nearly thirty years before. It was not a fatal objection to a trial but the leading of evidence and questioning of witnesses would require careful handling and consideration especially as the victims had certain disabilities.

The Milwaukee Archdiocese Tribunal had not exactly covered themselves in legal glory up till then. And the trial had not even started. One does wonder if the CDF thought that the Milwaukee diocese were up to handling such a difficult case.

A good example is that after a meetiing between the CDF and the Diocesan authorities in Rome, the CDF sent a written record of the meeting to the Archdiocese. It was written in Italian. The translation was done in Milwaukee using "Google". The translation of such an important document is totally incomprehensible.

One would have thought that the two page document would have been properly and professionally translated into English as it is a document of some importance and did require to be seen by a number of people who did not speak Italian and did contain a number of legal phrases which had to be properly and accurately translated if the process was to proceed in a proper way.

All the proceedings happened before the Reforms in Canon Law re abuse in 2001. If the proceedings had been initiated post 2001, the CDF would have taken the case from the start and dealt with it in an appropriate and timely manner. Unfortunately before 2001, the proceedings had to be initiated by the local dioceses before the local tribunals with a right of appeal to Rome.

In the recent Irish Report about abuse of children in Ireland, the Committee reported that there was nothing wrong with the Canon Law it just was not used or used properly in Ireland. Certain local Canonical authorities do not appear to have the necessary skill and expertise to deal with contested cases. This is what seems to have happened in Milwaukee too with the Murphy case.

The meeting in Rome : May 1998

The meeting in Rome was not in response to the letter of Murphy of 12th January 1998. That had been responded to and the Diocese had dealt with it.

On May 30 1998 there was a meeting in the Vatican between Archbishop Bertone, the undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Father Gianfranco Girotti, and the American prelates concerned with the case.

It is clearly seen from the minutes of the meeting that in the congregation there were doubts about the feasibility and opportuneness of the canonical process, given the difficulty of reconstructing the events that happened 35 years earlier, above all that which concerned the crime in the confessional, and given that no other accusations resulted for the period from 1974 onward.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Bertone summarised the two essential lines to be held: a territorial restriction for the priestly ministry (in practice, Father Murphy had to stay in Superior) and decisive action to obtain the priest's repentance, including the threat of "resignation from the clerical state."

It was an attempt to find a speedy and practical solution to a problem where it was clear that the Milwaukee authorities lacked the ability and possibly the resources to carry out a speedy and successful prosecution which would be "appeal proof".

The diocese accepted that this was the way to proceed.

Four months later on 21st August 1998 Murphy died.

Why did the Milwaukee archdiocese decide to start proceedings after such a great length of time ?

One does wonder why the Archdiocese of Milwaukee feel that after so many years of doing nothing that it had to raise proceedings. The pevious Archbishop had just sent him into eile to his mother`s house and did not see the need for formal laicisation.

It does appear that one of the major reasons for the action of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 1996 was that as faculties had not been withdrawn from him as a priest, Murphy was still claiming to be a priest in good standing and wanting to exercise what he called "his apostolate to the deaf". Yes it is pretty sick.

He had on an intermittent basis been conducting retreats etc trying to establish contacts. The Diocese wanted to stop him doing that as there had been complaints from the Deaf Community who had been his victims from 1950-74 (the period of abuse which the Church knew about). As Bertone and his officials had to point out to the Diocese, this could be done without a hearing simply by the Bishop using his existing powers.

One does wonder if the Archdiocese at the time simply saw the proceedings as a way to get them off the hook with the Deaf Community. To be seen to be acting but to no real purpose.

From the correspondence what Bertone and the officials in the CDF was trying to do was assist the Diocese and Archdiocese to deal with a very troublesome individual who was using his clerical status as a disguise to meet his perverted desires within the then existing framework of Canon Law. It was clear that the accused was going to defend the case to the last ditch. He would take every point and take every appeal. It would appear that he and his family denied that there had been any abuse. The victims were not going to be spared from testifying by Murphy.

It is perhaps a pity that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee did not seek expert help either from the Canon Law experts in the USA or at the CDF as to how to deal with this difficult problem before embarking on a complex legal process in which they were obviously out of their depth.

It was only when they were struggling in deep water in the middle of a course of action that they had to call on higher authorities for help.

They seemed to be about to be mired in procedural difficulties even before the main difficulty of hearing the evidence and trying the case had begun.

Child abuse cases are notoriously difficult cases to prosecute and try in the civil sphere.

In the civil sphere cases involving events which happened long ago are rare. There is always a rule forbidding any case where the cause of action occurred after "a period of limitation": sometimes 5 years, others 7 years. It is regarded as being in the interests of justice and fairness.

In most civil cases, a period of thirty five years from the date of offence to the date of trial would be struck out as being well out of time. Memories fade. The evidence would be too unreliable.

Generally in the civil sphere it is only in very serious cases such as murder War Crimes, torture and the like would there be no limitation period. Courts will allow an extension of the limitation period in child abuse cases. But they will generally be conducted by very experienced advocates and under certain restrictions again in the interests of fairness to both sides.

Ask any lawyer who has been called in and required to get a colleague out of a mess where the strategy and the Court action is misconceived and the new lawyer is expected to appear as a Deus ex machina while proceedings are live. They will tell you what it is like.

The raising of the case by the Archdiocese was misconceived and ill-thought out from the start. It may have be done for good motives but the case was probably doomed from the start.

That of course is why the Vatican had to change the rules and procedures of Canon Law regarding abuse by priests and religious in 2001. And who, apart from Pope John Paul II, were the main people who pushed for it and were responsible for that ?

Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Bertone

The Entry into Jerusalem

Pseudo- Monvaerni
L'Entrée du Christ à Jérusalem / The Entry of Christ into Jerusalem
End of 15th century
Enamel paint on panel
H. : 18,50 cm. ; L. : 21,50 cm.
Musée du Louvre

"The Carolingian liturgy was dominated by Holy Week.

It thus echoed the character of Egeria’s account so many centuries before, which had given prominence to the observance of ‘Great Week’.

The Carolingians fashioned Holy Week as it has subsequently been observed in Catholic tradition.

In some ways they were simply reflecting the universal practice of the church: Easter continued, in spite of the growing unfamiliarity of adult baptism, to be the major baptismal occasion, as it had been since the early centuries. Perhaps for the first time, Rome was an important liturgical influence. It was the specific policy of Pepin and Charlemagne to unify their dominions on the basis of the acceptance of Roman customs.

However, the Holy Week programme as a whole was not a pure imitation of Rome.

Its first day was marked by the procession on Palm Sunday, which first appears in a fully developed form in the West in the Institutes, composed shortly after 800, which describe the rituals followed at Saint-Riquier or Centula, in Picardy near the modern Abbeville. This was an abbey founded in the seventh century, which under Abbot Angilbert came to be closely associated with the imperial family. He undoubtedly developed the relics and liturgy there, but it may well be that some of the ceremonies in the Institutes predated his time.

This may include the Palm Sunday procession.

Whenever this arrived in the Carolingian lands, it almost certainly did not travel through Rome. There is ample evidence for the Palm Sunday procession from this time onwards.

In about 820, Amalarius noted that ‘in memory of this event we are accustomed to carry branches before our churches and to shout “Jerusalem”’ , and Carolingian liturgists composed processional hymns and antiphons, the most famous of them Theodulph’s hymn known to English worshippers as ‘All glory, laud, and honour’:

Gloria, laus et honor tibi sit, rex Christe, redemptor,
cui puerile decus prompsit hosanna pium

The full version of Theodulph’s hymn refers clearly to the stages of the Palm Sunday procession at Angers. The inclusion of the procession in the Romano-German Pontifical suggests that it was in general use by the 960s at the latest."

Colin Morris, The sepulchre of Christ and the medieval West: from the beginning to 1600 (OUP: 2005) pages 108-109

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Archbishop of Westminster comments on the child abuse scandals

In today`s Times under the banner The Church is not trying to cover anything up , the Archbishop of Westminster puts up a valiant defence in regard to the recent child abuse scandals.

The Archbishop in particular strenuously defends the Pope against the recent unjustified attacks made against the Pope personally.

"The child abuse committed within the Roman Catholic Church and its concealment is deeply shocking and totally unacceptable. I am ashamed of what happened, and understand the outrage and anger it has provoked.

That shame and anger centres on the damage done to every single abused child. Abuse damages, often irrevocably, a child’s ability to trust another, to fashion stable relationships, to sustain self-esteem. When it is inflicted within a religious context, it damages that child’s relationship to God. Today, not for the first time, I express my unreserved shame and sorrow for what has happened to many in the Church.

My shame is compounded, as is the anger of many, at the mistaken judgments made within the Church: that reassurance from a suspect could be believed; that credible allegations were deemed to be “unbelievable”; that the reputation of the Church mattered more than safeguarding children. These wrong reactions arise whenever and wherever allegations of abuse are made, whether within a family or a Church. We have to insist that the safety of the child comes first because the child is powerless.

Serious mistakes have been made within the Catholic Church. There is some misunderstanding about the Church, too. Within the Church there is a legal structure, its canon law. It is the duty of each diocesan bishop to administer that law. Certain serious offences against that law have to be referred to the Holy See to ensure proper justice. Some of these offences are not criminal in public law (such as profanation of the sacraments), others (such as offences against children) are. The role of the Holy See is to offer guidance to ensure that proper procedures are followed, including the confidentially needed to protect the good name of witnesses, victims and the accused until the trial is completed. It is no different from any other responsible legal procedure.

This “secrecy” is nothing to do with the confidentiality, or “seal” of the confessional, which is protected for reasons of the rights of conscience.

The relationship between the administration of church law and the criminal law in any particular state is a point of real difficulty and misunderstanding. Nothing in the requirement of canon law prohibits or impedes the reporting of criminal offences to the police. Since 2001 the Holy See, working through the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, has encouraged that course of action on dioceses who have received evidence about child abuse and which the diocesan authorities are responsible for pursuing. The canonical procedure is best put on hold until the criminal investigation is complete, whatever its outcome. This is what is needed. That it has not happened consistently is deeply regrettable.

In England and Wales, since 2001, the agreed policy followed by the bishops has been to report all allegations of child abuse, no matter from how far in the past, to the police or social services. By doing so and by having clear safeguarding procedures in place in every parish as well as independent supervision at diocesan and national level, we have built good relationships with those authorities in these matters, including, in some areas, co-operation in the supervision of offenders in the community.

What of the role of Pope Benedict? When he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he led important changes made in church law: the inclusion in canon law of internet offences against children, the extension of child abuse offences to include the sexual abuse of all under 18, the case by case waiving of the statue of limitation and the establishment of a fast-track dismissal from the clerical state for offenders. He is not an idle observer. His actions speak as well as his words.

Every year since 2002 the Catholic Church in England and Wales has made public the exact number of allegations made within the Church, the number reported to the police, the action taken and the outcome. As far as I know, no other organisation in this country does this. It is not a cover-up; it is clear and total disclosure. The purpose of doing so is not to defend the Church. It is to make plain that in the Catholic Church in England and Wales there is no hiding place for those who seek to harm children. On this we are determined.

One more fact. In the past 40 years, less than half of 1 per cent of Catholic priests in England and Wales (0.4 per cent) have faced allegations of child abuse. Fewer have been found guilty. Do not misunderstand me. One is too many. One broken child is a tragedy and a disgrace. One case alone is enough to justify anger and outrage. The work of safeguarding, within any organisation and within our society as a whole, is demanding but absolutely necessary. The Catholic Church here is committed to safeguarding children and all vulnerable people."