“The foulest crime”

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Former fugitive Oblate Father Eric Dejaeger ‘s Iqaluit courtdate of yesterday (Monday 07 May) has been rescheduled to 14 May 2012

08 May 2012: Accused priest misses court, faces more than 70 charges

Note that according to the above article Dejaeger now faces more that 70 charges in Nunavut.

I believe the 14 May date will still be to file a formal indictment.  Whether or not Dejaeger’s new lawyer will be prepared to proceed at that time remains to be seen.

Dejaeger’s preliminary hearing in Edmonton Alberta is set for 20-21 December 2012.  There are four charges from two complainants in Edmonton.


On the heels of The Shame of the Catholic Church, and in an attempt to understand the manner in which Cardinal Sean Brady dealt with the 14-year-old victim of Father Brendan Smyth I have been in contact with an individual who has a doctorate in canon law.

Well, this is indeed fascinating.  I have a lot of issues with the manner in which Brady dealt with that boy (Brendan Boland), but at the top of the list were the following:  (1)  the boy’s father was excluded from the interview; (2)  the boy was sworn to secrecy; and (3) the parents of the  14-year-old Belfast boy who was later interviewed by Brady were not told of their sons allegations and hence the abuse of that boy at the hands of Smyth continued for another year, and the boy’s sister was molested by the priest for years as were several of his cousins.

I could maybe understand why in those days the police were not contacted, but I could not understand why those children were not protected, and why child victims would be treated in such fashion.

The answer lies in Crimen Sollicitationis, the controversial and once top secret 1962 Vatican document instructing bishops on how to proceed when a penitent has been solicited for sex in confession.  (The Vatican now has the document posted online – a much easier read.  I will copy and post)

While there is no indication that Brendan Boland was solicited by Smyth during confession, still, it would seem, in conducting his investigation (“note taking” he called it) Cardinal Brady was true to the instructions in Crimen.

The bulk of Crimen deals explicitly with solicitation in confession, however, according to the the last section of the document, all the rules for investigating a priest accused of  soliciting a penitent to sexual favours, also apply to the case of a priest who has sexual relations with another male or with pre-adolescent children.

So here is how it goes…

(1)  “The secret of the Holy Office”

The following is an excerpt from Crimen regarding the utmost confidentiality  (“the secret of the Holy Office”) demanded  in dealing with the crime of solicitation :

“11. Since, however, in dealing with these causes, more than usual care and concern must be shown that they be treated with the utmost confidentiality, and that, once decided and the decision executed, they are covered by permanent silence (Instruction of the Holy Office, 20 February 1867, No. 14), all those persons in any way associated with the tribunal, or knowledgeable of these matters by reason of their office, are bound to observe inviolably the strictest confidentiality, commonly known as the secret of the Holy Office, in all things and with all persons, under pain of incurring automatic excommunication, ipso facto and undeclared, reserved to the sole person of the Supreme Pontiff, excluding even the Sacred Penitentiary. Ordinaries are bound by this same law , that is, in virtue of their own office; other personnel are bound in virtue of the oath which they are always to swear before assuming their duties; and, finally, those delegated, questioned or informed [outside the tribunal], are bound in virtue of the precept to be imposed on them in the letters of delegation, inquiry or information, with express mention of the secret of the Holy Office and of the aforementioned censure.

12. The oath mentioned above, whose formula is found in the Appendix of this Instruction (Form A), is to be taken – once for all by those who are appointed habitually, but each and every time by those who are deputed only for a single item of business or cause – in the presence of the Ordinary or his delegate, on the Holy Gospels of God (including priests) and not in any other way, together with an additional promise faithfully to carry out their duties; the aforementioned excommunication does not, however, extend to the latter. Care must be taken by those presiding over these causes that no one, including the tribunal personnel, come to knowledge of matters except to the extent that their role or task necessarily demands it.

13. The oath to maintain confidentiality must always be taken in these causes, also by the accusers or complainants and the witnesses. These persons, however, are subject to no censure, unless they were expressly warned of this in the proceedings of accusation, deposition or questioning. The Defendant is to be most gravely admonished that he too must maintain confidentiality with respect to all persons, apart from his advocate, under the penalty of suspension a divinis, to be incurred ipso facto in the event of a violation.”

(2) “The foulest crime”

The following is an excerpt from Crimen regarding “the foulest crime,” that being a priest engaging in sex with a person of his own sex, with pre-adolescent children or with “brute animals” (bestiality).  This section makes clear that the manner in which the crime of solicitation is handled is to be applied to “the foulest crime.”



71. The term crimen pessimum [“the foulest crime”] is here understood to mean any external obscene act, gravely sinful, perpetrated or attempted by a cleric in any way whatsoever with a person of his own sex.

72. Everything laid down up to this point concerning the crime of solicitation is also valid, with the change only of those things which the nature of the matter necessarily requires, for the crimen pessimum, should some cleric (God forbid) happen to be accused of it before the local Ordinary, except that the obligation of denunciation [imposed] by the positive law of the Church [does not apply] unless perhaps it was joined with the crime of solicitation in sacramental confession. In determining penalties against delinquents of this type, in addition to what has been stated above, Canon 2359, §2 is also to be taken into consideration.

73. Equated with the crimen pessimum, with regard to penal effects, is any external obscene act, gravely sinful, perpetrated or attempted by a cleric in any way with pre-adolescent children [impuberes] of either sex or with brute animals (bestialitas).

74. Against clerics guilty of these crimes, if they are exempt religious – and unless the crime of solicitation takes place at the same time – Religious Superiors also can proceed, according to the sacred Canons and their proper Constitutions, either administratively or judicially. However, they must always communicate a sentence rendered, or an administrative decision in those cases which are more grave, to the Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office. The Superiors of a non-exempt religious can proceed only administratively. In the case where the guilty party has been expelled from religious life, the expulsion has no effect until it has been approved by the Holy Office.

As my contact pointed out to me,  the instruction gives no directions for preventing the offender harming other innocent victims: “The focus of these Vatican laws is sin and redemption, so the offending priest is first and foremost seen as a sinner in need of repentance. From the point of view of canon law, his victims were only relevant insofar as they were witnesses. Their eventual fate and the fate of other victims was not a concern of canon law.”

However, note the reference to 2359§2.  This is from the ‘old’ 1917 Code of Canon law,the code in effect at the time  (it was replaced in 1983 by the the new code ).  Here is what had to say:

Canon 2359§2 of the 1917 Code stated:

If they engage in a delict against the sixth precept of the Decalogue with a minor below the age of sixteen, or engage in adultery, debauchery, bestiality, sodomy, pandering, incest with blood-relatives or affines in the first degree, they are suspended, declared infamous, and are deprived of any office, benefice, dignity, responsibility,  if they have such, whatsoever, and in more serious cases they are to be deposed

Secrecy aside for the moment, what consideration was given to canon 2359§2? Presumably, according to Crimens,  canon 2359§2 “is also to be taken into consideration.”

Why then was Smyth, as a molester of a minor and in violation of canon law,  not ‘suspended, declared infamous, and deprived of any office, benefice, dignity, responsibility,  if he had such, whatsoever, and in as serious a case as this, deposed’?

All very disturbing. On the one hand Crimen and the the Secret of the Holy Office, and on the other hand canon 2359§2.

The bottom line I suppose is that, secrecy or no, why was Father Smyth not declared infamous and deposed?  I am no canon lawyer, but seems to me common sense says that that too would have been in accord with Crimen, and morally-speaking it would have been the right thing to do.  Had that step been taken Smyth would not have had continued access to the Belfast boy, nor to the boy’s sister or cousins.

A final comment:  Cardinal Brady should resign.

Enough for now,


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3 Responses to “The foulest crime”

  1. Mike Mc says:

    Brilliant! Quite a lesson in Canon law&Code and “stuff”. I certainly agree with you.

    The bottom line for me is common sense. All this Canon Code stuff, I suppose, is necessary in the eyes of the RC Church. But common sense says that this infamous Fr Symth should have been given the holy boot up his Irish ar*e. If he had, his abusive days would probably have ended as the word about him would have been made public….and eventually he would have been brought before the courts ages ago.

    Instead, priests like Fr Brady kept things hidden/ignored/unwatched….and eventually Fr Brady rose to the ranks to Cardinal. Good for him….until now.

    I honestly wonder how many other Cardinals are squirming in their red robes as newer revelations become known. Just look at what the Mgrs Lynn trial is unearthing each day as “secret files” get read aloud in court.

    However, I noticed this statement from Pope John Paul in 2002 at a youth rally. I am struggling with it today more than ever as it seems like the vicitims have been forgotten here too.

    “If you love Jesus, love the Church! Do not be discouraged by the sins and failings of some of her members. The harm done by some priests and religious to the young and vulnerable fills us all with a deep sense of sadness and shame. But! Think of the vast majority of dedicated and generous priests and religious whose only wish is to serve and do good! There are many priests, seminarians and consecrated persons here today: be close to them and support them! And if, in the depths of your hearts, you feel the same call to the priesthood or consecrated life, do not be afraid to follow Christ on the royal road of the cross! At difficult moments in the Church’s life, the pursuit of holiness becomes even more urgent.”

    We shall see.

  2. Sylvia says:

    I think there are more than Cardinals in their red robes squirming MikeMc. I would venture a guess that there are knees knocking in one diocese after the other, from one corner of the world to the other, including Canada. 

    Look at the Father Eric Dejaeger debacle.  What secrets are tucked away in archives about his escapades?  

    What of Father George Smyth?  and Hod Marshall? and Robert Borne? and on and on and on.

    The days of secrets is slowly coming to an end.  The lies, deception and betrayal are being exposed for all the world to see.

    So many excuse these cover-ups as done for the good of the Church. I can not think of anyone who loves the Church who actually believes that the Church is made healthier and the faith of all strengthened by turning a blind eye to and recycling clerical sexual predators.  I have deep difficulty accepting that rationale.

    Re the quote from Pope John Paul II.   It’s one thing for the Holy Father to extol “the vast majority of dedicated and generous priests and religious whose only wish is to serve and do good! ”  but it means little if, because of the failure to weed out the rotten apples, we are incapable of sorting out who those “dedicated and generous” priests are.  And, sad to say, it was Pope John Paul II who turned a deaf ear to the sex abuse complaints against Father Marcial  Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. 

  3. Mike says:

    *    Oh my God! Gag me with a spoon! Thanks for your information regarding Canon Law Sylvia, BUT I still believe that this self-serving piffle should never ever supercede our criminal laws.    Mike

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