“Dear Mr. Ratzinger” Campaign

I have a new hero in Ireland. Her name is Emma Somers. She is a free-lance writer and she has come up with the most elegant and simple way to reply to Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to the Irish people regarding the sex crisis in the Catholic Church. We are all going to drop him a line, compose a letter, fire off an email, send an epistle, you choose the form it takes as long as the message is sent. I know this is starting as an Irish initiative, but I would like to see a more international effort  supporting Emma’s campaign.  This is a show of support for Ireland’s concerned movers and shakers who are done with the abuse committed by clergy and covered up and denied by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.  This is a show of support for survivors worldwide. This is a pontifical “WAKE-UP” call to the Holy See.

Emma’s WordPress Blog is called “Dear Mr. Ratzinger: Letters from Ireland“.  The rules are simple (I hope she forgives me for cutting and pasting):

No 1: Read the pope’s letter

Please do not post a response unless you have read the pastoral letter from the pope — or at least the parts directed at you (eg victims, young people, parents, etc). It is posted here.

No 2: Write your reply

It may be one line, it may match the pope’s 4,000 words — either way, you can get your message across. Feel free to borrow from other letters here if you have trouble articulating your feelings.

No 3: Share your reply

If you are comfortable sharing all or part of your reply, please post it as a comment on “Dear Mr. Ratzinger“. Your letter may inspire others to put pen to paper.

No 4: Post  your reply on Saturday 15th May 2010

 
This is the most important part. DO NOT FORGET TO POST OR EMAIL YOUR LETTER! For the biggest impact, we will send our letters on the same day and show the Vatican Ireland cares about victims of clerical child abuse.

Note: (For you Americans out there, Post=Mail, find a stamp and mail the thing)

Participants are invited to meet at the GPO on O’Connell Street, Dublin, at 2pm on Saturday 15th May to post our letters as a group. (If you would like to be sent a reminder for this, please email dearmrratzinger@gmail.com with ‘Reminder GPO’ in the subject line. Your email will not be passed on or used for any other purposes.)

If you can’t make it to the GPO, all you need to do is post or email your letter before 5pm on Saturday 15th May. (Again, for a reminder, please email dearmrratzinger@gmail.com with the word ‘Reminder’ in the subject line.)

Address for letters: Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Palace, 00120 Vatican City
-or-
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
00120 Via del Pellegrino
Citta del Vaticano

Address for emails: benedictxvi@vatican.va

No 5: Spread the word

Please pass “Dear Mr. Ratzinger: Letters from Ireland” on to anyone you know who might be interested in having their voice heard or help friends and family who are not online to get involved in the campaign.

Consider this “Spreading the Word”!  I need a Canadian and an Australian to get the word out in your neck of the woods. 

For those of us that can’t make it to the GPO in Dublin on the 15th because of lack of funding, expired passports, or Icelandic volcanos,  I recommend similar gatherings at post offices around the world.  Talk amongst yourselves and come up with an appropriate location, preferably near a mail box, post box, container approved by your local postal authority or free WiFi hotspot.   

If you are going to meet, let me know where and when and I will spread the word.

Why are you still reading this?  Go to Emma’s Blog, Dear Mister Ratzinger: Letters from Ireland, you have reading and writing to do.

Vatican Rules predate Vatican II

I am posting a brilliant article from an Irish website called The Post.IE by Vincent Browne.   The article is another example of how clueless the hierarchy of the Catholic Church continues to be.  It also lays out that the efforts to keep the activities of pedophile priests under wraps has been a long-established Vatican policy.  For those who think that the pedophile scandal in the church is a by-product of Vatican II, here is further proof that the problem has a much longer institutional history.

The problems documented in Ireland are present in other Sees around the world.  This is not an isolated problem, it is a universal problem with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church

The article, which appeared on 20 December 2009,  is well worth the read:
Vatican guilty of unholy compassion for paedophiles
20 December 2009 By Vincent Browne

In 1922, the Vatican promulgated an instruction to do with what it called crimen solicitationis (the crime of solicitation within the confessional) and what it called the ‘‘worst crime’’ – the sexual abuse of children. The document was issued in Latin. No authoritative version was produced in English.

The document was circulated only to bishops and under terms of strict secrecy.

A new version of the guidelines was produced in 1962, but this, according to the Murphy Commission, was unknown within the Dublin diocese until some time in the 1990s.

Desmond Connell, the former archbishop, told the commission he had never seen the 1962 document, nor had he met anyone who had seen it.

John Dolan, the chancellor of the diocese and a monsignor, whose job is to ensure that the administrative records of the diocese are kept safe, said he didn’t know that ‘‘lurking in the very end, at the very back [of the decree crimen solicitationis], was a little paragraph on the ‘‘worst crime’’.

He was unaware of the 1962 document until an Australian bishop discovered towards the end of the 1990s that it was still valid. Until then, he did not know of any guidelines by the Vatican on the issue of clerical child sexual abuse.

The Murphy Commission commented on how ‘‘unusual’’ it was, ‘‘whereby a document setting out the procedure for dealing with clerical child sexual abuse was in existence but virtually no one knew about it or used it’’.

In 1996, victims of clerical abuse hounded the bishops into devising a ‘framework document’, setting out guidelines for dealing with allegations of abuse. John Dolan said: ‘‘They [the authors of the framework document] did not feel Rome was supporting them in dealing with this issue … they were meeting an onslaught of complaints, and Rome was pulling any particular solid ground that they had from under them’’.

The 1922 and 1962 Vatican instructions on dealing with allegations of clerical child sex abuse demanded absolute secrecy in the conduct of investigations. T he secrecy was so pervasive that, to some, it seemed to demand that the complaint also be kept secret from the state authorities.

Cannon 1341 states that the bishop is to ‘‘start a judicial administrative procedure, for the imposition or the declaration of penalties, only when he perceives that neither by fraternal correction nor reproof, nor by any methods of pastoral care, can the scandal be sufficiently repaired, justice restored, and the offender reformed’’.

The Murphy Commission notes: ‘‘This canon was interpreted to mean that bishops are required to attempt to reform the abusers in the first place.” In Dublin, efforts were made to reform abusing priests by sending them to therapeutic centres. But, according to the commission, ‘‘the archdiocese seems to have been reluctant to go beyond the reform process, even when it was abundantly clear that the reform process had failed’’.

But, more tellingly, the commission stated they ‘‘could find very little evidence, particularly in the early decades of the commission’s remit, of any attempt by church authorities to restore justice to the victims’’.

I t says the question of harm to the victims never seemed to have been considered by the archdiocese.

In considering whether a person is guilty of the ‘‘worst crime’’, canon law states a person must have ‘‘deliberately’’ violated the canon law. In considering the issue of guilt under canon law, the Canon Law Society of Britain and Ireland has commented: ‘‘Among the factors which may seriously diminish their imputability (guilt) in such cases (cases of clerical child sexual abuse) is paedophilia …

‘‘Those who have studied this matter in detail have concluded that proven paedophiles are often subjected to urges and impulses which are in effect beyond their control .. .because of the influence of paedophilia (the abuser) may not be liable, by reason of at least diminished immutability (guilt) to any canonical penalty or perhaps to only a mild penalty, to a formal warning or reproof or to a penal remedy.”

The commission says it ‘‘finds it a matter of grave concern that, under canon law, a serial child abuser might receive more favourable treatment from the archdiocese or from Rome, by reason of the fact that he was diagnosed as a paedophile’’.

What all this says is that the issue is not just a matter of negligence or complicity in clerical child sexual abuse on the part of individual bishops – it is the culture of the Catholic Church, a culture shaped by the church authorities in Rome and transmitted and refined in dioceses.

A culture that hides the Church’s own guidelines concerning what it itself rhetorically said was the ‘‘worst crime’’; that caused the Vatican authorities to pull the ground from priests who were trying to draft guidelines on abuse; that prioritises the abusers over the abused; that has been essentially indifferent to the harm caused to abuse victims; that regards paedophiles as objects of sympathy and compassion.

A few more episcopal resignations, with a presumption that these settle the matter, is just a continuance of the culture of denial of the Catholic Church’s institutional and cultural complicity in the criminality of clerical child sexual abuse.

The Holy Roman and Apostolic Church is the problem.

Father Thomas Doyle on the Irish Child Abuse Report

I read a great article by Father Thomas Doyle entitled Irish abuse report demands decisive action  with his observations on the recently released report in Ireland that came from the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and covered a 60-year-period from 1936 to the present. It raised serious questions about Catholic institutions that permitted and fostered climates of sustained abuse by priests and nuns.

Father Doyle is a canon lawyer and has been a steadfast advocate for victims of abuse. He is a Dominican Priest. He is a godsend to people like me.

Read the article, it is your current homework assignment.

My favorite passage from his article is the simple yet powerful summation of the attitude of the Catholic Church:

The official reaction is predictable. Denial, minimization, blame shifting and finally limited acknowledgment followed by carefully nuanced “apologies” has been the standard fare. At no time has the leadership of any part of the institutional Church ever owned up to any systemic accountability. The standard responses are totally unacceptable because they are devious and irrelevant. Those who still hold to the institutional Church as their source of emotional security may well bray about anti-Catholicism, media sensationalism and exaggeration of what they claim to be an aberration. Such responses are mindless but far worse, they inflict even more pain on the thousands whose lives have been violated.

Can someone tell me why the laity of the Catholic Church remains in their lethargic daze? Why aren’t people screaming, pounding on the doors of Chanceries, withholding donations and seeking reform? I am at a loss!