Things are getting hot for the Catholic church.
The pope, meanwhile, continues to be under fire for a 2001 Vatican letter he sent to all bishops advising them that all cases of sexual abuse of minors must be forwarded to his then-office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and that the cases were to be subject to pontifical secret…But canon lawyers insisted Friday that there was nothing in the document that would preclude bishops from fulfilling their moral and civic duties of going to police when confronted with a case of child abuse. They stressed that the document merely concerned procedures for handling the church trial of an accused priest, and that the secrecy required by Rome for that hearing by no means extended to a ban on reporting such crimes to civil authorities.
Right…that’s the issue we discussed last month – concluding that it was so damn ambiguous and woolly and evasive we couldn’t be sure what it was saying.
Well guess what.
Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore in Northern Ireland, told a news conference this week that Irish bishops “widely misinterpreted” the directive and couldn’t get a clear reading from Rome on how to proceed. “One of the difficulties that bishops expressed was the fact that at times it wasn’t always possible to get clear guidance from the Holy See and there wasn’t always a consistent approach within the different Vatican departments,” he said. “Obviously, Rome is aware of this misinterpretation and the harm that this has done, or could potentially do, to the trust that the people have in how the church deals with these matters,” he said.
Interesting, isn’t it. They knew perfectly well that the document was hard to interpret, and they gave no help.
An Irish government-authorized investigation into the scandal and cover up harshly criticized the Vatican for its mixed messages and insistence on secrecy in the 2001 directive and previous Vatican documents on the topic. “An obligation to secrecy/confidentialtiy on the part of participants in a canonical process could undoubtedly constitute an inhibition on reporting child sexual abuse to the civil authorities or others,” it concluded.
In the United States, Dan Shea, an attorney for several victims, has introduced the Ratzinger letter in court as evidence that the church was trying to obstruct justice. He has argued that the church impeded civil reporting by keeping the cases secret and “reserving” them for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. “This is an international criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice,” Shea told The Associated Press.
Hotter and hotter…but still never hot enough. Yet.