The Vatican’s Circular Letter to the bishops of the world has been released. I’ve looked it over a few times now and, alas, try as I might I could find nothing which assures Catholics in Canada that things are about to change for the better.
The Letter of course is just that, a letter. And all it does is suggest the bishop develop “guidelines.” There are no teeth here. Just words. I honestly can’t see what the point is.
As it stands, each conference of bishops around is to prepare guidelines, and copies of completed guidelines are to be sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by end May 2012.
That’s a full year.
For guidelines. No teeth. Just “guidelines.”
I don’t know what I had hoped for, but I always do try to hold out hope for something positive.
Yet again, I was disappointed.
I will limit myself to the following observations and comments:
(1) Spiritual assistance for victims
According to the Letter, the Church should be “committed to” the spiritual and psychological assistance of victims.
This is perhaps the one sign I initially thought of as progress. It is rare indeed to hear concerns regarding the spiritual well-being of victims, and, for that matter, their families. However, what good is it to talk of being committed to the spiritual assistance of victims when the victims won’t go near the Church precisely because they view the Church as harbouring, protecting and/or covering up for known clerical predators .
How can spiritual assistance be provided to the lost sheep if the latter don’t trust and won’t darken the door of a Church because Church officials refuse to take the steps required to regain that lost trust and show by their actions that they view clerical child sex abuse as an abominable crime and treat those who enact such crimes against children as unfit to wear the Roman collar or bear the title “Father”?
(2) “Safe environments”
It seems some countries have initiated educational and prevention programs within the Church to ensure “safe environments” for minors
It is all well and good to teach others to look for signs of sex abuse after the fact. But, what does that do to eliminate child sex abuse? And, how does it create a “safe” environment?
I suggest there will be no “safe havens” for minors as long as neither we nor they know who the who the known molesters are in our midst.
Pope John Paul II is quoted as follows: “there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young”
Why then are known clerical molesters still in the priesthood?
And why, at a later point in the Letter, do we read:
the return of a cleric to public ministry is excluded if such ministry is a danger for minors or a cause of scandal for the community.
Which is it? Is it that, as Pope John PAul II said, no place in the priesthood for these priests?
Or, is it that there is a place for them if “such a ministry” is not a damage to minors?
Or, is it that there is a place for them as long is it does not cause scandal?
It seems to me that “no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young” means precisely that. Why then are these men not laicized (defrocked)? Why all the dancing about exclusions to public ministry? More on this in a minute.
4) Support of Priests
Note the following para:
3. The accused cleric is presumed innocent until the contrary is proven. Nonetheless the bishop is always able to limit the exercise of the cleric’s ministry until the accusations are clarified. If the case so warrants, whatever measures can be taken to rehabilitate the good name of a cleric wrongly accused should be done.
Note that there is no demand or even suggestion that a priest accused of child sex abuse should be removed from ministry until the allegations have been “clarified.”
And, what does “clarified” mean?
IS this perhaps a problem with translation? Still, this is the approved English translation of the Letter.
No matter. The problem here as I see it is that there is no demand whatever that a priest be removed from active ministry the moment there is an allegation of sex abuse against him.
The bishop can “limit” the exercise of his ministry. “Can.” Not ‘must.’ “Can.”
Has there been no progress at all?
I addressed this in part above:
i.) the return of a cleric to public ministry is excluded if such ministry is a danger for minors or a cause of scandal for the community.
IF such ministry is a danger for minors?
Where does the “if” come from?
Is there a single soul who can prove or promise that beyond a shadow of a doubt a known molester will not re-offend?
I know of none.
And perhaps it’s a case of translation, and perhaps a small point, but does it not look there as though it’s the “ministry” which is deemed the danger to children and not the clerical predator himself?
Anyway, sad to say those in the Vatican who compiled this Letter seem to think that it is all fair and good for a known molester to return to “public” ministry IF there is NO danger for minors.
As I say, show me one instance where it is known that a clerical predator will NOT re-offend when he is returned to public ministry and that all children who cross his path are not thereby willfully placed at risk.
And that’s not just children in a parish, or a hospital. What of the children of friends? What of the children of friends who have been denied the truth of this priest’s proclivities for sex with children? Who’s stopping those kind and unwitting souls from inviting “Father” to join them for a meal or two? Or joining them on vacation?
That aside, I cringe to think that Church officials believe that a priest who has sexually abused a child are worthy to be, or to be called, priests.
Then there’s the second part:
The return of a predatory priest to “public ministry” is excluded if it would
“cause of scandal for the community”?
Where have “they” (Vatican officials) been for the past 20 years?
It’s a given that if the community isn’t told that their priest is a known molester – no problem. And it’s a given that as soon as the community finds out, – big problem.
I know of no instance whereby a known molester has been publicly introduced to parishioners at Masses, or patents in a hospital, or students in a school as a known child molester. Are there any?
I believe there are instances in which a chosen few tolerant souls from a parish are advised and that that is bent to its max to constitute advising the faithful. I honestly know of no case of recycling into a parish where everyone was told.
Besides, can anyone think of an instance in which the presence of a known molester-priest in “public” ministry would NOT cause scandal? I can’t.
Is the idea then that if these priests can be quietly hoisted upon trusting and unwitting Catholics it’s alright?
If that’s the case, then it’s heads back in the sand: maintain the status quo.
Enough for now,