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Vatican 'entirely unhelpful' in applying child safety

by Frank Schnittger Wed Jul 13th, 2011 at 11:41:44 AM EST

   


   
Bishop John McGee is the only man ever to have served as private secretary to three Popes - Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul I, and Pope John Paul II. He was thus at the heart of the Vatican establishment for almost two decades before being made Bishop of Cloyne in 1987. Now a judicial report into child sexual abuse in his diocese has found that the Vatican was 'entirely unhelpful' in applying child safety in the Diocese and that Bishop McGee took little or no active interest in the management of clerical child sexual abuse cases until 2008, 12 years after the framework document on child safety guidelines was adopted by the Irish hierarchy despite Vatican opposition.


Vatican 'entirely unhelpful' in applying child safety

The Vatican was "entirely unhelpful" to any bishop who wanted to implement procedures for dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse in the Irish Catholic Church, a report has found.

The Commission of Investigation Report into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne states that a decision by the Vatican to brand a framework document on child sexual abuse, agreed by the Irish Bishops Conference in 1996, as "not an official document" effectively gave individual Irish bishops "the freedom to ignore" the guidelines.

The Vatican response "can only be described as unsupportive especially in relation to the civil authorities," the commission said in its 341 page report.

The effect of this was "to strengthen the position of those who dissented from the official stated Irish Church policy", according to the report, which examines allegations made against 19 priests between 1996 and 2009.

The commission says the response of the diocese was "inadequate and inappropriate" and that the primary responsibility for the failure to implement the agreed child sexual abuse procedures lies with then Bishop of Cloyne John Magee, who resigned in March 2010.

"It is a remarkable fact that Bishop Magee took little or no active interest in the management of clerical child sexual abuse cases until 2008, 12 years after the framework document was adopted," the report says.

"It became clear during the course of this investigation that Bishop Magee had, to a certain extent, detached himself from the day to day management of child sexual abuse cases. Bishop Magee was the head of the diocese and cannot avoid his responsibility by blaming subordinates who he wholly failed to supervise."

It says that Bishop Magee wrongly told the government and the HSE that the Cloyne Diocese was reporting all allegations of clerical child sexual abuse to the authorities. It also said he deliberately misled people by creating two different accounts of a meeting with a priest accused of abuse.

The inquiry, led by Judge Yvonne Murphy, said the fact that some child sexual abuse allegations were not reported to gardai was the diocese's "greatest failure".

A history of clerical abuse inquiries

The report into the investigation into allegations of clerical child sex abuse in Cloyne is the fourth inquiry into the affairs of Catholic Church in Ireland to have been published within the past six years.

Murphy Report 
---snip
Among the findings:  Four successive archbishops of the Dublin Catholic Archdiocese handled allegations of child sexual abuse badly and with "denial, arrogance and cover-up" and did not report their knowledge of abuse to gardaí over a period of three decades.

The structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated the cover-up of abuse.

Ryan Report 
---snip

Among the findings:  Thousands of children suffered physical and sexual abuse over several decades in 216 residential institutions run by religious orders implicating over 800 priests, brothers, nuns and lay people.

The report criticised the Department of Education for failing to carry out its "statutory duty of inspection" out of deference towards the religious congregations.

Ferns Report

---snip

Among the findings:  The report strongly criticised the handling of the Catholic Church of child sexual abuse over four decades having heard allegations by over 100 individuals against 21 priests among them Seán Fortune who was involved in a number of rapes and sexual assaults around the country over a period of two decades.

The report found former bishop of Ferns Brendan Comiskey "failed to recognise the paramount need to protect children, as a matter of urgency, from potential abusers" and accused him of providing erroneous information to one garda inquiry and failing to co-operate fully with another.

Needless to say, no one in authority has, or is likely to go to prison.  Individual priests have been prosecuted successfully often despite the huge time lapse between the offences occurring and the prosecutions being brought.  Of course many continued to abuse new victims whilst the authorities assiduously covered over their tracks. As a general rule, state action only followed extensive media exposure and the campaigning of victim advocacy groups.

If you have the stomach for it, a timeline of the clerical child abuse scandal is published here. Commercial insurance policies against being sued for Child abuse were taken out by most dioceses in 1986/7, so it is not as if the Bishops weren't aware they had a problem.  As early as 1985, Fr Tom Doyle, a US canon law expert, warned of dire consequences if the scandal was not dealt with openly and effectively. He was ignored and removed from his position in the Vatican embassy in Washington...

In 1993 Pope John Paul II wrote to US bishops in response to the growing scandal: "I share your sadness and disappointment" and went on to say the child sex abuse problem concerns only a small group of priests. His spokesman, Joaquín Navarro-Valls, summed up the Vatican attitude: "One would have to ask if the real culprit is not a society that is irresponsibly permissive, hyperinflated with sexuality and capable of creating circumstances that induce even people who have received a sound moral formation to commit grave immoral acts."

So basically, guys and galls, it's your fault.  Your permissive attitudes resulted in priests abusing children and the Vatican having to cover it all up. Shame on you.

Display:
Bishop McGee was personally accused of "inappropriate behaviour" when he kissed an 18 year old on the forehead and told him he loved him. It was decided that the behaviour was inappropriate rather than abusive and was not construed as constituting grooming.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 13th, 2011 at 01:27:12 PM EST
Grooming? Abusive?

Have we gone mad!?

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 13th, 2011 at 01:30:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know the context.  I added it as a comment to emphasise that the accusations against Magee are primarily not that he personally abused anyone. They are that he lied to the authorities and that he frustrated a slow and painful process of bring abusers to book.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 13th, 2011 at 02:45:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can not find the right clip, but Southpark has an episode where the local catholic priest tries to do something about the allegations of rape of boys and as he moves up the hierarchy he is told that "yes, we must get the boys to shut up".

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!
by A swedish kind of death on Wed Jul 13th, 2011 at 03:24:14 PM EST
Abuse allegations response 'inadequate, inappropriate'
The withholding of information about serious offences against a child will be made a criminal offence, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter announced yesterday following the publication of the report on the handling of sex abuse claims in the diocese of Cloyne.

Further measures, including a statutory child protection code, are to be announced by Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald tomorrow.

Bishop Gerard Clifford, auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Armagh, this morning said evidence in the report showing that the Church's standing was prioritised over the victims of abuse was "the great disappointment".

He said there was a new realisation that the problem of abuse is something the church cannot solve by itself and he welcomed Mr Shatter's comments about the introduction of child protection legislation

Apparently a Priest who withholds information about child abuse obtained through the confessional will be liable to prosecution under the new code - thus breaking the last claim of the Church that Canon Law has priority over civil law.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jul 14th, 2011 at 07:25:59 AM EST
Hmm. That's not necessarily a good precedent to set.

Do psychologists, psychiatrists and the like also have an obligation to report crimes that come to their attention during the course of otherwise privileged discussions?

Now, I would argue that consulting a qualified psychologist is a healthier way to deal with mental and emotional distress than consulting a priest. But the latter is often used as a low-budget alternative to the former.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jul 14th, 2011 at 09:10:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The code of practice varies between professionals and depends on the severity of the crime.

There's a very loose benchmark that depends on the likelihood of serious direct harm to self and others.

For serious crimes such as rape or murder, then reporting is likely, especially if there's a likelihood of further offences. I think most professionals would take sexual abuse very seriously and would be likely to report it unless there was an exceptional reason not to.

But for (say) drug taking, shop lifting or even petty burglary - probably not.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jul 14th, 2011 at 10:04:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure that in practice it will make any difference - all the cases known to the Church (and later to the Authorities) became known because victims reported the abuse, not because the perpetrator confessed to them.  The larger problem is that the Church authorities held that Priests were accountable to Canon Law over and above civil law and thus were under no obligation to report abuse to civil authorities regardless of how the facts became known to them.  

It may be an over-reaction, but this is basically about asserting the primacy of civil law over Canon law - and of the Irish State over the Vatican.  Personally I think that the welfare of children trumps the rights of adults to having private conversations with their lawyers/doctors/therapists/priests.  I can't see the personal and societal benefit of giving privilege to such conversation at the expense of child victims. Professionals will just have to warn their clients that such conversations cannot be privileged. As I understand it, even currently a Barrister, as an officer of the court, cannot knowingly argue a falsehood to the court.  It the guy confesses to his lawyer, the lawyer cannot then plead his innocence.

Within the context of RC theology, my understanding is that confession is about a penitent seeking forgiveness - a Priest would in any case have to advise self-reporting to the police if absolution is to be given. A penitent seeking to escape just punishment for his crimes isn't a true penitent in the first place.  The difficulty for the RC Church will be that the Priest will now also be open to prosecution - especially where further offences occur.  I could envisage some very difficult test cases, but in practice most Priests will simply advise a penitent not to say anything they are not prepared to face the music for.

Hardly anyone now goes to personal confession in any case - the practice has virtually died out.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jul 14th, 2011 at 10:05:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Abuse allegations response 'inadequate, inappropriate'
The report found that the Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, misled the minister for children by claiming the church's guidelines for handling abuse cases were being fully complied with. It also found he falsely told the Health Service Executive (HSE) that allegations of abuse were being reported to gardaí.

In fact, two-thirds of complaints made between 1996 and 2008 were not reported to the Garda and no complaint was passed to the HSE during this period.

The report accuses the Vatican, through its opposition to the Irish bishops' procedures for handling child sexual abuse, of giving comfort to dissenters within the church who did not want to implement them. In a secret letter to the bishops, Rome describes the 1996 rules as "merely a study document" and not official.

Senior Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi issued an emphatic "no comment" when asked about the Cloyne report. He did not rule out making a comment at a later date, by which time the Holy See would have had a chance to assess the report fully.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said last night he would be calling the papal nuncio to a meeting over the findings.

Mr Shatter said the intervention by the then papal nuncio - whom he described as an ambassador from a foreign state - was unfortunate and unacceptable when the country had been assured the church had implemented new child protection guidelines.

Describing it as a matter of some seriousness, Mr Shatter said it was a matter for the Tánaiste to "have a conversation" with the nuncio. It is understood officials were keen to hold talks as early as today but no date for the meeting has been arranged.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jul 14th, 2011 at 07:30:30 AM EST
Abuse allegations response 'inadequate, inappropriate'
The "learning curve" used to excuse the poor handling of complaints in earlier reports does not apply in Cloyne, the report points out. All of the allegations were made after 1996, when new procedures were put in place to deal with complaints.

As Ms Fitzgerald pointed out: "This is not a catalogue of failure from a different era. This is not about an Ireland of 50 years ago. This is about Ireland now."

Bishop Magee is described in the 341-page report as ineffective and faulted for taking little real interest in the implementation of the guidelines on child sexual abuse for 12 years. He assigned responsibility to Msgr Denis O'Callaghan, who was "uncommitted" to the guidelines, frustrated their implementation and acted in what he perceived were the best interests of the church.

"It is truly scandalous that people who presented a public face of concern continued to maintain a private agenda of concealment and evasion," Mr Shatter commented.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jul 14th, 2011 at 07:40:21 AM EST
Word is that the Vatican ambassador has been summoned and Rome has been accused of a role in the child abuse cover up.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Jul 14th, 2011 at 10:06:26 AM EST
The meeting between the Foreign Minister, Eamon Gilmore, and the Papal Nuncio has happened, with the later undertaking to make the Vatican aware of the report ASAP and with Eamon Gilmore insisting that the Irish Government expects a response from the Vatican. Personally I'd like to see diplomatic relations broken off permanently.  The Vatican represents a religion, not a people or a nation state in any normal sense of the term, and it is an anomaly for the State to give such formal recognition to one religion.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jul 14th, 2011 at 10:14:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I live in a country which had no relations with the Vatican for its first two centuries of existence, so I am inclined to agree with you, except for one thing: Why does it matter at all that the Vatican represents a religion and not a nation state or a people? The institution of diplomatic relations has been around a lot longer than nation states have been, so it doesn't seem to follow that diplomatic relations have to follow a nation-state format any more than any other practical format for dealing with a transnational organization for which there may be significant domestic support or interest.  

For that matter, why should we presume that the nation state has a better claim to institutional authority than any other organization -- political, secular or otherwise?  If that were the case, it would be hard to argue for expanding the authority of the EU, after all. The implicit claims of nation states that their citizens express greater loyalty to the state than to Rome, the UN, or any other transnational institutions, seems to belong to a proto-fascist discourse around "sovereignty" and like terms, and not to the discourse of progressives or liberals. There may be other arguments for cutting diplomatic ties to the Vatican, but nation-statehood doesn't seem like a good one.

by santiago on Fri Jul 15th, 2011 at 03:36:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ireland also has an ambassador to the UN which is not a Nation state.  The nation state has a better claim to institutional democracy because it is a democracy. The EU is merely a transnational organisation to which member state have devolved some of their "sovereignty" or institutional authority by Treaty.

I could understand people arguing for (say) the primacy of Canon law in a state like Uganda which threatens homosexuals with execution. It is a case for which body of law has greater legitimacy and adherence.  

However there are real difficulties if two different sets of laws apply to different people in the same state.  What if a paedophile ring contained some clerical members who were tried under canon law, and others who were tried  for similar offences under criminal law?  I can't see this working in any state.  See also my draft LTE below.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jul 15th, 2011 at 03:48:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ireland, and the nation states today of Europe, are certainly democracies, but since nation states as legal institutions came into being with the Treaty of Westphalia, that such states in Europe happen to also be democracies is both a very recent thing and possibly a completely accidental thing. Other nation states, including at least one great one -- China -- doesn't even pretend to be democratic, and it doesn't seem to matter at all regarding establishment of diplomatic relations. The set of governance activities that can be called "diplomatic relations" don't seem to have much to do with democracy, or with nation states.  

But your last point is what I thought was interesting from your original comment -- the idea that there may be a problem if people have more than one code of rules to follow at the same time.  You may be right, but I'm not sure, upon reflection, that any problem exists, or that it isn't already commonplace and maybe always has been.  Soldiers and sailors, for example, have to follow both military codes as well as civil law, as do people with dual citizenship or foreigners residing abroad .  Contradictions do occur, but it doesn't seem too problematic, really. Likewise, all corporate entities, such as businesses and other employers, also have internal rules, and in very large corporations these can be as significant as civil laws, particularly for international organizations where local rules aren't reliable enough for global governance of the organization.

It's clear from the historical record that the reason for the establishment of the Vatican as a nation-state was to preserve the Papacy's institutional independence from any state, notably Italy, once it finally became accepted only in the 20th century that the new European order would revolve, for the time being, around the framework of nation states.  What isn't necessarily clear is how long that very recent framework will last, or whether it should, or how to engage politically (i.e., within the space of contesting power) with an organization that is much different and older, but still quite powerful given its membership and activity, than the newbie concepts of democracy and nation-statehood.

by santiago on Fri Jul 15th, 2011 at 04:44:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am fully aware we are talking about various processes of historical evolution here, and that nothing is universal, eternal, and self-evidently the right way to go in all situations.  

As will be clear from my LTE below, I am a partisan in this debate. I believe it is preferable in our current situation, for reasons of child welfare, democratic accountability, and personal responsibility that the criminal law should apply in cases of child abuse, and that whilst the Irish state is by no means blameless in this regard, it is preferable that it should be the institution charged and accountable for ensuring child abuse is minimised and punished where it occurs.

For one thing, fewer and fewer people in Ireland are now practising Catholics, and fewer still have any faith in the authority of the Vatican.  Of course all sorts of other bodies (including Golf Clubs) will also have their own rules. The question is which rules have primacy on those rare occasions where there is a conflict between the two sets of rules. In the case of Ireland, that is the Irish Constitution (but subject to appeal to the European Court - another case of devolved authority).

You could argue that we are in a transition from Rome Rule to Brussels/Strasbourg rule and there are, of course, pros and cons to any transition. On balance I prefer democracy to theocracy which is what this debate is probably really all about..

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jul 15th, 2011 at 05:15:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or you could follow the practice of the Protestant or Orthodox countries of Northern or Eastern Europe and have an Irish Republican Church.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jul 16th, 2011 at 02:03:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In practice, what is happening, is that people are leaving the RC church in their droves and even those that remain are dismissive of Rome and sceptical if not downright condemnatory of their own hierarchy. Gone are the days when a Bishop had as much prestige and could expect more deference than a cabinet minister.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 16th, 2011 at 04:59:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(a French National Catholic Church) basically because he had more divisions than the Pope did...

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 11:00:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... education still, believe it or not.

Many in the rest of Europe probably are not aware of this but most primary schools in the Republic of Ireland are still 'sponsored' by the Catholic Church, which means they have an effective control over who is on their governing bodies, principals go in fear of the local parish priest, and they have direct control over religious and 'ethical' education.  Time that in the rest of Europe would be spent on learning another language is spent preparing for Catholic rites of passage. I find this deeply worrying given their inability and/or unwillingness to control child abuse among their ranks, but I am in a distinct minority.

Which I think partly explains why the Irish population accepted and continue to accept the depredations of finance capital and their representatives and spokespeople in politics and the media with little protest - acceptance of abuse is a habit.

by Pope Epopt on Thu Jul 14th, 2011 at 11:58:30 AM EST
Time that in the rest of Europe would be spent on learning another language is spent preparing for Catholic rites of passage.

I think you're including in "the rest of Europe" the rest of the Catholic countries where similar practices to the irish ones you describe still occur.

In Spain there is a Concordate with the Holy See that still influences state educational policies. The right'wing People's Party (and the Basque and Catalan regional right-wing parties) have a strong Christian Democrat component and agitate for catholic education in schools. Spanish educational law keeps evolving with each new government and swinging with each change in the colour of said government.

When I was in primary school in the 1980s it was normal for "[Catholic] religion" to be taught in school for a couple of hours a week. It was possible to opt out of this, but only (rare) members of other religions or children of militant atheists did this. In my class, I remember two children left the classroom to study under the supervision of one of the Social Sciences teachers. The rest of us, some out of conformism, remained in the "religion" class.

In the early 90s in secondary school I had the option to study "religion" or "ethics". By that age, parents would allow free choice to their children and roughly half chose "ethics". This included any non-catholics. "Ethics" classes were taught by the philosophy teachers.

There is no religious requirement in public universities.

Per the Concordate, the church appoints and selects "religion" teachers, though the state pays their wages. This has resulted in widely publicised scandals when the bishops have fired a religion teacher for being divorced or something like that.

Until the mid-90s the tug of war between the Spanish left and right was over whether the "religion" class or its "ethics" alternative would be compulsory or elective. Also, whether it would count towards the course average grade or not. For some time after I graduated from high school the situation was that those not taking "religion" would have a free hour of "supervised study" (usually in the school library", and "religion" would not be part of the average grade. This ended after the PP won the 1996 election.

I don't know quite what the situation is like now. Zapatero's government introduced a civics class called "education for citizenship" which the right wind attacked as socialist indoctrination, with some regional governments, schools and parents boycotting it.

Portugal, Italy and Poland are also under strong influence from the Catholic Church. I'm pretty sure they have Concordates, though the details may vary, as does Austria and EU accession country Croatia. Hungary and Romania are also catholic, as is Southern Germany, Belgium, Malta, and (sociologically despite its militantly secular state) France. Don't think Ireland is unique.

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 14th, 2011 at 12:17:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Vatican has a full list here. For example, there's one with Germany from 1933.
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Thu Jul 14th, 2011 at 12:34:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the perspective, Migeru - that's the value of this site.

However I don't see evidence of such direct control over appointment of all staff and members of governing bodies as still pertains here in Ireland.  We never had an even nominally socialist party in power and every mainstream party is too chickenshit to challenge the conformism on this issue.  Two hours a week seems quite slight compared with the staggering amounts of time and resources spent preparing for confirmation and communion classes here.  The Catholic Church owns most of primary school buildings, believe it or not - despite the funding for schools coming exclusively from the state.

Nor does any other state have (yet - I hasten to add) the documented scourge of systematic child abuse facilitated and assiduously covered up a religious congregation to the degree that Ireland has undergone, with connivance of the state and local elites, and the silence of the general population.

by Pope Epopt on Thu Jul 14th, 2011 at 01:00:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, Catechesis in Spain is generally not done in schools, definitely not in public schools or as part of the curriculum in private religious schools; but in parishes, and the number of people who confirm is much lower than those taking their first communion.

So in Spain Catechesis has the character an extracurricular activity or "after-school club". But other countries could plausibly be doing the same as Ireland, I don't know for sure. For instance Malta (where there isn't even divorce yet), Italy (where the influence of the Vatican is that of a parallel state), or Poland. I'd be interested in knowing the details.

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 15th, 2011 at 05:17:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Denmark, the school sets aside a time slot (typically either the first in the morning or the last in the afternoon), but that's the end of its involvement.

I gave it a whirl for a few weeks, but while the priest was a nice enough chap the instruction was a complete waste of time.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jul 15th, 2011 at 07:54:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nitpick: Romania is mostly Orthodox.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jul 15th, 2011 at 12:30:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Papal Nuncio should be expelled - Flanagan - RTÉ News
Chairman of the Fine Gael parliamentary party Charlie Flanagan has called for the expulsion of the Papal Nuncio, following the revelations in the Cloyne Report.

Mr Flanagan, who is also a TD for Laois-Offaly, said the scandals uncovered showed the Vatican was guilty of a massive deceit.

He said that if any foreign government conspired with Irish citizens to break the law here, their ambassadors would be expelled and he believed the same standards should apply to the Papal Nuncio.

Earlier, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore told the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Guiseppe Leanza, that he wants a 'response' and an explanation from the Vatican as to why Irish church guidelines were ignored and allegations of abuse went unreported in the Diocese of Cloyne.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Gilmore said it was 'absolutely unacceptable' that the Vatican had intervened in Ireland and discouraged priests from reporting crimes against innocent children.

The significance of this is that Fine Gael is traditionally the most conservative and obsequious of Irish parties and Charlie Flanagan represents a conservative rural constituency. There is now no place for the RC Church to hide - in Ireland of all places

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jul 14th, 2011 at 03:13:31 PM EST
The debate about the Cloyne Report has quickly reduced in many instances to a debate around sacerdotal privilege, and particularly "the seal of the confessional". About the only relevance of this debate to what is documented in the Cloyne Report is the allegation that the Bishop of Cloyne prepared two reports on a particular child abuser:  One for Rome in which he noted that the Priest has admitted the offence, and one for the Health Service Executive in which that admission was not included, allegedly on the grounds that this admission may have been part of a privileged conversation between the priest and his Bishop.

It is important that any ambiguity or confusion surrounding "privileged" conversations should be removed, both for the welfare of children and for the good conscience and reputation of those with responsibility for the welfare of children. Why should parents entrust their children to priests if they have no guarantee that their children's welfare is the priest's over-riding concern?

In practice, it may be rare for paedophiles to admit their crimes in the confessional or as part of "privileged" conversations, and they are even more unlikely to do so if they know that such an admission will be reported to the civil authorities. Although it is possible to imagine an emotive test case, the likelihood of prosecutions for the non-reporting of abuse seems remote if only because it is rare for evidence of such non-reporting to come to light.

However it is important that the primacy of the laws of the land over Canon law be firmly established. The crisis in the Roman Catholic Church has come about partly because Bishops and those in authority viewed their responsibilities to obey Canon Law as being superior to any responsibilities they owed to the Irish state.  This led to the Vatican instructing Bishops and Priests to ignore their civil responsibilities and report only to Rome. This in turn led to offending priests being moved from one jurisdiction to another, and the prioritisation of the interests of the institution over the welfare of children.

If the Vatican has difficulty in accepting that the laws of the Irish state must apply in Ireland, it can always cut off diplomatic relations with Ireland. One state does not  claim that it's laws over-ride those of another if it wants to maintain friendly diplomatic relations.   It is in any case an anomaly that Ireland should maintain separate embassies with the Vatican and with Italy in Rome.  

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jul 15th, 2011 at 10:42:52 AM EST
I think you might be assigning too much to "canon law" than is actually the case.  Canon law is really just the bylaws of the church as an organization.  It isn't a separate, parallel set of rules that prescribe different sanctions and benefits than civil law would do for the same offenses or actions. There is no means in canon law, to my knowledge, to sanction an individual for murder, bribery, theft, etc., other than to fire them from their present job.  So I'm not sure that there is as much of a contradiction as you say.

Rather, it appears that the case in Ireland is that people are much more voluntarily deferential to Church officials than they are in most of the rest of the Catholic world. And policies tend to follow the biases of the people, even in non-democracies. Formally ejecting the church from the state's institutions did little to diminish the authority of the church in Latin America, for example. Why? Because people remained culturally Catholic and retained the same biases and values that are the principle causal factors in institutions and policies.

I think we also need to ask at some point whether sexual abuse is really as heinous a crime, objectively, as we are initially inclined to think of it.  A lot of your argument here seems predicated upon a presumption that sexual abuse is different from other alleged offenses, like terrorism is presumed to be as well, and that exceptions should be made in the normal administration of justice to be able or intervene sooner, or to not allow the normal possibility of forgiveness to occur without the intervention of the state that happens with most other non-capital offenses.  Perhaps that is the case with sexual crimes, but I'm skeptical of it, even in the case of sexual abuse of children.

by santiago on Sat Jul 16th, 2011 at 12:40:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The relevance of Canon Law here is that it was used by the Bishops to justify their non-reporting of sexual abuse crimes (and indeed sometimes to tell outright lies - via a quaint concept of "mental reservation" which apparently allows you to lie). They were also concerned to deal with abuse as a "Pastoral Matter" which involved offering counselling to the abuser and abused.

Vatican documents such as Crimen sollicitationis actually threatened the abused with excommunication if they revealed their abuse to outside bodies thus voluntary deference is hardly the issue here.

If you want the views fo a Canon Lawyer, see Cloyne facts expose the pathology of the church - The Irish Times - Sat, Jul 16, 2011

THE DIRECT ROLE of the Vatican in enabling and even directing the cover-up, stonewalling and obstruction of justice has been suspected for years. The report made a vitally important breakthrough by describing in concrete detail the essential role the Vatican played in the disgrace of the diocese.

The report points to two serious deficiencies in the Vatican response. The first is the papal nuncio's refusal to co-operate with the commission during the Dublin and Cloyne investigations, as well as his lukewarm response to the horrific contents of the report. The second and far more treacherous aspect is the direct attempt to sabotage the Irish bishops' 1996 policy document Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response .

The commission found this document contained a "detailed and easy to implement set of procedures". Yet, before it could adequately be put into practice, the papal nuncio, Archbishop Luciano Storero, sent the Irish bishops a letter passing on the concerns of the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy. The letter clearly reflected the reactionary attitude of Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, who was prefect at the time. He erroneously labelled the policy "merely a study document".



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 16th, 2011 at 03:09:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In almost the entire Catholic world, Church Canon Law is institutionally subservient to state civil law (I think this may even be true for the Vatican state).  Canon Law is just the internal bylaws of the Church as an organization.  There is no theology involved in canon law, and it is really no different, just older, than typical corporate bylaws used everywhere.  Where subservience is not clearly the case, , such as in Argentina and Spain, it is because the state has declared it to be so at the Constitutional level of rulemaking -- the level of how to go about making rules about making rules -- which means it is still subservient, in the end, to state civil power.  If such subservience is not the case in Ireland, the only reason must be that local Irish cultural norms provide people with more obedience or respect for the Church, a priori, than for the civil state, a pretty unique state of affairs today even in Catholic countries.  Is this the case in Ireland, and is this what you are advocating that your countrymen change?
by santiago on Sat Jul 16th, 2011 at 04:07:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I make no claims to be an expert on Canon Law - I simply note that it was invoked by the Vatican to require obedience from its Bishops and even from the victims of abuse and the Vatican made every effort to prevent the Irish Bishops from adopting a code of practice which required instances of child abuse to be reported to the civil authorities.  

The Papal Nuncio refused to cooperate with the judicial investigation and the Vatican has refused to make available files known to be in their possession which would facilitate the investigation and prosecution of crimes - sometimes invoking diplomatic privilege, at other times the requirements of Canon Law.

Frankly I think the Irish state such end all diplomatic relations with the Vatican until such time as it ceases to require Irish citizens or persons resident in Ireland to do anything other than be fully law abiding Irish citizens and cooperates fully with enquiries into instances where that may have been the case.

Some Irish Bishops - e.g. Archbishop Marin - are as appalled at Vatican behaviour as anybody and have been anything but obsequious - and have been frustrated at every turn.  I really don't know why you seek to minimise Vatican complicity in all of this or the gravity of what they have done.  States have been invaded and destroyed for less.  Right now the Vatican is becoming a pariah state - which I suggest is not in the interests of any sincere practising Catholics.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 16th, 2011 at 04:24:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't want to minimize Vatican complicity in this at all.  I just want to be honest about the categories that we are using. I am as appalled at the news of Vatican complicity and what I see a case of really bad judgement as you are.   But I don't think it is categorically any different than being appalled at similar kinds of things I see elsewhere in society, for example in the US Congress or other esteemed institutions of authority.  For me, it means punish the people involved, not the institutions involved.  But you seem to want to apply a categorical sanction against the Church and its relationship with Ireland itself instead of just against the people involved in bad judgement and criminal activities.  I'm not convinced these scandals warrant that kind of sanction -- they are faults of individuals not of institutions.
by santiago on Sat Jul 16th, 2011 at 05:02:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Vatican 'entirely unhelpful' in applying child safety
The Vatican was "entirely unhelpful" to any bishop who wanted to implement procedures for dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse in the Irish Catholic Church, a report has found.

The Commission of Investigation Report into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne states that a decision by the Vatican to brand a framework document on child sexual abuse, agreed by the Irish Bishops Conference in 1996, as "not an official document" effectively gave individual Irish bishops "the freedom to ignore" the guidelines.

How is this not the fault of the institution?

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by A swedish kind of death on Sat Jul 16th, 2011 at 05:26:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It wasn't the rules of the Vatican that led to its alleged "unhelpfulness" in Ireland. It was people in the Vatican that did that, perhaps for evil, but also perhaps for good.  If it were the rules and practices (that is what we mean by "institution") of the Vatican that were at fault, the Vatican would also have opposed similar efforts by bishops elsewhere at the time, but this is not the case. In the US, for example, the Vatican completely supported, applauded, and publicized the new policies by the US bishops, during the same time period, to immediately report allegations of sexual abuse by priests or other employees or contractors (priests are actually bonded contractors of their dioceses in the US) to the local police.

This means that something else was likely afoot in the Irish case, and the Vatican might very well have opposed something about what was going on there that was different than elsewhere.  Organizing opposition to policy and law -- contesting power -- is a normal, if sometimes dramatic, part of the policy process, both internationally as well as within a state, so it seems like, at worst, this may be a case of poor personal judgement, not of institutional failure.

by santiago on Sun Jul 17th, 2011 at 01:08:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the US, for example, the Vatican completely supported, applauded, and publicized the new policies by the US bishops, during the same time period, to immediately report allegations of sexual abuse by priests or other employees or contractors (priests are actually bonded contractors of their dioceses in the US) to the local police.

There is a certain amount of editorialising going on here, as the Vatican also engaged in a systematic operation to siphon off the assets of subsidiaries and then cut them off from the organisation before their victims could bring civil suit.

Or, to be a little more precise, while they talked a mean game they were busy pulling a Bhopal.

This means that something else was likely afoot in the Irish case,

Alternative hypothesis: They thought they could get away with it in Ireland.

Organizing opposition to policy and law -- contesting power -- is a normal, if sometimes dramatic, part of the policy process,

And indeed that is what Frank is suggesting - contesting power. Specifically, making sure that the Vatican can never again contest its absolute subservience of the Irish branch of the catholic church to the democratic Irish state.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 02:57:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Papal Nuncio acts on behalf of the Vatican state when he encourages Bishops not to observe the criminal or civil law and when he refuses to cooperate with judicial investigations of crimes.  Charles Flanagan, chairman of the (v. conservative) Fine Gael party and representing a conservative rural constituency has called for his expulsion.  That is a sanction not against the individual (Archbishop Leanza) but a sanction directed at the Vatican.  Incidental Charles Flanagan is the son of Oliver Flanagan - noted ultra conservative catholic, anti-semite and Papal Knight.

By all means go after culpable individuals as well - in which case you would also have to go after the current Pope.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 16th, 2011 at 05:50:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is why I would likely oppose such an action if anyone proposed such a sanction in my home country. The sanction is misdirected and has more to do with contesting power with the Church and with Rome (a perfectly acceptable thing to do, in general) than it does with obtaining justice for victims and prevention of further tragedies. (And I wouldn't likely want to end up on the same side as an antisemitic rightist in any case.)

Rome apparently has a powerful influence in Irish society, more so than in most other places, even Catholic ones. It is natural that people in the business of power -- namely leading government, business, and civil society leaders -- would feel constrained at times by the power of the Church and the Vatican and would use any opportunity that arises in public discourse to challenge that power and thereby increase their own.

I guess that's what I see in this story, differently than you do:  I don't see anything that really addresses the social justice involved here.  Instead I just see use of the abuse scandals to challenge the power of the Church in Irish society.  I don't have a dog in that particular fight in Ireland, but I do have concern in general as a human being for the social justice of the matter. So unless there is a direct connection between weakening the power of the Vatican or the Church in Irish politics and providing benefits for past and future victims of sexual abuse AND for reducing the threats of state power to personal freedom, I don't see any reason to go after the Vatican regarding this story.  

In fact, given the vitriol I see in Irish political discourse against the Church and the Vatican, such as proposing laws that eliminate the privacy of the confessional, I'm inclined to support the Vatican in its challenge against Irish state power because it looks to me like the power of the state over people's personal lives might be getting out of hand there.

by santiago on Sun Jul 17th, 2011 at 01:36:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For me, it means punish the people involved, not the institutions involved.

I.G. Farben and the British East India Company would beg to differ.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 02:51:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Canon Law is just the internal bylaws of the Church as an organization.  There is no theology involved in canon law, and it is really no different, just older, than typical corporate bylaws used everywhere.

I would suggest that if a corporation systematically partakes in organised crime then it is de facto, if not de jure declaring its intent to place its internal by-laws above those of the state. The fact that it is not officially attempting a coup d'etat by explicitly declaring itself to be above the law is not normally considered an extenuating circumstance.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 02:51:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm actually quite shocked at your suggestion that the sexual abuse of children is necessarily all that serious a crime.  There have been numerous instances of lives being ruined by it - partly because the victims were frightened into not reporting it for many years, and partly because they never had access to counselling.  But the attitude that "they'll get over it" is actually what allowed the abuse to be so widespread, because no effective sanctions were never exercised by the Church, and of course the Civil Authorities were never informed.  The incidence of subsequent suicides, alcohol abuse, broken marriages, inability to have children etc. is so common that I am appalled by your comment.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 16th, 2011 at 03:15:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It not that it's not a serious crime.  It most certainly is.  It is that it is not necessarily any more serious that other kinds of physical and psychological assault, all of which are serious crimes, morally and physiologically, as well as legally.  Why should sexual crimes be treated by law in a manner differently from other kinds of physical assault?
by santiago on Sat Jul 16th, 2011 at 03:54:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If a guy physically assaults another no one - the Church included - has any problem with them being brought to justice for it.  However if a Priest in a position of authority sexually assaults a minor under their authority all of a sudden it becomes "a pastoral matter" and everything is swept under the carpet.

Sexual assaults by revered adults (including parents) on minors do tend to have lifelong psychological effects on them in the way (say) a severe physical beating may not, but not even that is the point.  It is the church which has treated sexual crimes completely differently, not the criminal law.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 16th, 2011 at 04:05:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What the law provides for, through implementation rather than legislation, is a fiscal limit on state power to intervene in personal or private matters.  Because of limited resources allocated to them, prosecutors can only prosecute or even report a tiny minority of the crimes that actually occur. Every time one spouse strikes another, for example, or a girl hits a boy who humiliated her, a serious crime has been committed, but this doesn't mean that the law requires that the police be called.  Instead the good judgement of the individuals involved in the incident is relied upon to determine the severity of the issue and the need for more serious intervention by the state.

At the time of many of these sexual abuses, priests, like civil educational and care-giving authorities everywhere, were also hitting kids and applying other forms of corporal punishment, sometimes quite severely, and it was generally allowed to go on without state intervention, even after it became illegal, because there was still no general consensus that it was really all that bad of a way to do things.  We now have different understandings of the severity of such offenses, and an understanding that civil authorities should be invoked either through lawsuits or criminal justice.  But that doesn't change the fact that just because a wrong has occurred doesn't mean the state needs to be invoked for every offense, even serious ones.

Think of it this way: in the US, and probably elsewhere, there has been an explosion of media coverage since the church scandals of female teachers getting sent to prison for having sexual affairs with teenaged boys, and they are branded, often legally and for life, as sexual offenders as a result. Female teachers having sex with post-puberty male students is probably not a new phenomenon, but it is a newly criminalized phenomenon as far as implementation of policy goes.  But is this really an honest and just way to categorize the relationship between the rapist/teacher and the student -- often big, strong, athletic students who boast to their friends about the encounter?  Or is it rather just a social construction of the times that ends up criminalizing human activities that have probably been going on forever and could be dealt with in better ways than criminal action?

Pedophilia is different than sexual abuse and should be treated differently.  Likewise, statutory sexual abuse is different than forcible rape and should be treated differently because the harm done to victims is different. Add in the issues of homosexuality and implicit power and it becomes more difficult still to honestly separate abuse from consent, but such separation should still be attempted through the judgement of those involved in order to really determine whether the blunt power of the state should be involved. The problem with judgement is that it can often err, but we accept that err on the side of non-intervention by the state as the cost of having a freer society than we would have if the state had to be invoked for every infraction, all of the time, like something out of George Orwell.

by santiago on Sat Jul 16th, 2011 at 04:50:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Corporal punishment has been banned in Ireland since 1982 and has been a criminal offence since 1996.   This is not a case of Irish society suddenly moving the goalposts after the event.  The Vatican actively sought to prevent the implementation of the 1996 Irish Bishops guidelines on Child abuse and Bishop McGee even claimed to have implemented them when in fact he had not.  The Cloyne report dealt with serious cases of sexual child abuse which occurred as late as 2008and which were not reported to the Authorities...

I'm sorry Santiago, but when it comes to children there should be no discretion in this matter as otherwise they have no one to advocate on their behalf.  The authorities can always rule that a particular incident was insufficiently serious to warrant prosecution - as they did in the case of an accusation against Bishop McGee himself.  

However the competent authority for deciding whether a prosecution is warranted is not the Church but the police/social services, and ultimately the Attorney General, based on the book of evidence supplied to him by the police and social services.  This is a professional matter, not something at the discretion of the superiors of the priest (or any other person) concerned.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 16th, 2011 at 05:38:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd side with you on a preferential treatment of children involved in such matters, given their much reduced power in society, except for one thing: as psychologists often have to tell people, children lie, alot, and they exaggerate alot too.  So we can't just presume because a child is involved that we can reduce any protection for the rights of accused people.  There is always just too much ambiguity involved in accusations of sexual misconduct, with children as with anyone else.  This alone is a good enough reason to keep the state out of matters until absolutely necessary.  

And it is completely arbitrary to propose, a priori, that the state is the more competent authority to determine whether or not prosecution is warranted rather than than the Church or other group with professional expertise in the care of children.  We can't even presume that the state is independent in such matters.  Even where the law may require it,it's a simple fact of life that the law requires lots of things we don't do, usually for perfectly good reasons, so it is still virtually always left up to the judgement of the actual people most directly in alleged or real incidents on whether or not to invoke the state.  Furthermore, laws and policies are always in the process of being contested by people, often by simply deciding not to follow the law, also usually for perfectly good reasons -- that's how governance works, after all.  That's how power is contested in society.

The scandal has made it a priority in the Church, and elsewhere in society, to put a higher priority and sensitivity on complaints of sexual misconduct than it had done so in the past.  I'm suggesting that not all of this is a good thing.  As much for children (and teens or young adults as is more often the case in the thousands of lawsuits brought against priests and others) as for the rest of us, a society that is focused too much on policing itself for sexual misdeeds is not a free society at all, and we should rather be willing to accept the costs of occasional tragedies in order to remain free of an omnipotent state.

by santiago on Sun Jul 17th, 2011 at 12:39:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So we can't just presume because a child is involved that we can reduce any protection for the rights of accused people.

It's not about restricting the rights of the accused. If the prosecution can not make a compelling case in court, nobody should be sentenced. It's about restricting the discretionary power of enforcing officials to not prosecute the case to the full extent of the law. Something that needs to be done whenever there is a serious discrepancy in power between the accused and the accuser. You can't allow the prosecutor discretionary power to not prosecute when the accused is a police officer, for instance.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 03:16:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
 It isn't a separate, parallel set of rules that prescribe different sanctions and benefits than civil law would do for the same offenses or actions. There is no means in canon law, to my knowledge, to sanction an individual for murder, bribery, theft, etc., other than to fire them from their present job.  So I'm not sure that there is as much of a contradiction as you say.

Well, the members of the religion (not just clergy) can be punished with at least "just penalty" and excommunication.

Code of Canon Law - IntraText

Can. 1366 Parents or those who take the place of parents who hand offer their children to be baptized or educated in a non Catholic religion are to be punished with a censure or other just penalty.

Can. 1367 A person who throws away the consecrated species or takes or retains them for a sacrilegious purpose incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; moreover, a cleric can be punished with another penalty, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state.

Excommunication is today not the death sentence it once was, but it is still pretty hard for throwing away the sacred cookies.

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by A swedish kind of death on Sat Jul 16th, 2011 at 05:23:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Victims of clerical sexual abuse who reported the abuse to the Church authorities where threatened with excommunication of they reported the abuse to anyone else - yes CHILD ABUSE VICTIMS - yet no paedophile priest has (to my knowledge) been excommunicated, and many have not even been defrocked.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 16th, 2011 at 05:53:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And you can be kicked out of your local bowling club too if you're problematic enough for your friends, but it's still in an entirely different category than the kinds of things that actual state power can organize to be done to you.  
by santiago on Sun Jul 17th, 2011 at 12:50:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry Santiago, but to a true believing Catholic there is nothing worse that can happen to them than ex-communication. Burning in the fires of hell for eternity is only not a problem if you aren't a believer.  This scandal has struck at the heart of the Catholic faith in Ireland, it's effect of civil society has been much more limited - chiefly to the victims of the abusers.

You can paint this entire scandal as a power struggle between Church and state if you want, but if that is even partly the case, it has been the Church fighting against its own side and destroying its own belief base.

If the state can be faulted, it is that it has been entirely too differential to the Church and has not adequately discharged its own duty of care to its citizens and children out of fear and respect for the power of the Church.

I don't see this as a power struggle between Church and State, but as one for the human rights of children and the most vulnerable in society.  If the Church had been on the right side of that fight, I would have supported it.  You, on the other hand, seem to be fighting for the rights of the Church no matter how damnable its crimes and seek to recast its institutional failings as those of a few individuals.  In that I think you are on the wrong side of history, but more problematically, on the wrong side of justice and truth.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 17th, 2011 at 05:05:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Clergy doing right thing is about timing not morality - Analysis, Opinion - Independent.ie
Primate Sean Brady insists the long-awaited report into the mishandling of child sex abuse allegations by the diocese of Cloyne is "another dark day" in the history of the Irish Church. In this, as in so much else, he is entirely wrong. Any day on which light is cast on the obscure, murky workings of the Church is a day of illumination rather than darkness. That what it reveals is so utterly vile and contemptible is another matter altogether.

A previous such occasion, of course, was when Sean Brady's own involvement in the cover-up of priestly perversion was revealed in 2009, when the faithful discovered how he had, 30 years earlier as part of an internal investigation into allegations against notorious paedophile Fr Brendan Smyth, made children sign oaths not to tell anyone that they had been abused.

Smyth, one of the most repulsive characters ever to wear priestly garb, went on to abuse dozens more innocents before being finally arrested; but even then, Primate Brady refused to take full responsibility by resigning, claiming that he was, in effect, only following orders, and that this was how things were back then. He also claimed that the current climate was a "totally different one to that of the past".

The Cloyne report reveals that that past is not yet behind us - it deals with abuse and cover-up right up to 2008.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 17th, 2011 at 05:27:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What the Vatican appears to be contesting is the power of the Irish state, not a coverup of sexual abuse.  The Vatican is contending that it would still be a better judge of when the state should be invoked than the state itself.  This may or may not be true, given its poor record of such judgements in Ireland and elsewhere, but it is a morally valid basis for contesting the power of the state -- that the onerous and blunt power of the state should not be invoked too quickly in allegations of sexual misdeeds of clergy or other private individuals, even when it regards children.
by santiago on Sun Jul 17th, 2011 at 02:25:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sorry, I live in a democracy rather than a catholic theocracy, a democracy which contains an increasing proportion of non- catholics and non practising Catholics.  (The "special position" of the Catholic Church was removed from the constitution in 1973).

Even amongst practising Catholics, only a small minority would want to be ruled by the Church rather than the state - as is (in part) evidenced by widespread rejection of Church teaching on celibacy, divorce, contraception. The Church's role in education, health care and every other facet of Irish life is becoming increasingly marginal - and for many, perhaps even most citizens, its complete withdrawal from secular life cannot come quickly enough.

If this does come down to a power struggle between the Vatican and the Irish state as you suggest, then the Vatican faces an absolute and totally humiliating defeat.  The Vatican would be very wise not to cast the debate in such terms.

I appreciate there is a libertarian anti-state tradition in the USA which is not present in Ireland to any great extent. People here may argue about who should govern, and how, but not about the need for government or its scope.  If anything the Government tends to be criticised for inaction rather than excessive intervention.

This, I think, is why I find your argument here so strange - it is not an argument will hear in Ireland from the Church itself - except perhaps from a v. small group of zealots who would be as critical of their Bishops as anyone else - if perhaps on different grounds.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 17th, 2011 at 03:42:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure that the defeat that you forecast is so eminent.  To believe that, you have to assume that although the constitutional position of the church was removed in 1973, rules and practices supporting the position of the church in Irish society somehow managed to continue without the support of a sufficiently powerful coalition of interests.  From what we know of how public policy works, that just doesn't happen, especially in a democracy.  

The Church must have it's authoritative position because it has enjoyed, and continues to enjoy, substantial political support in Ireland.  That support may be declining, and its decline may be hastened by the scandals and continuing revelations about it, but it would be naive to presume that Irish society doesn't support the Church.  In other words, the coalition of interests supporting the Church in Ireland today is still the dominant coalition.  That may change, but it is very unlikely to be a major shift.

by santiago on Sun Jul 17th, 2011 at 06:18:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since it was a dominant coalition it is still the dominant coalition?

Sounds like one of Zenon's paradoxes. If the support is in decline over an extended period of time, it will at some point in time no longer be the dominant coalition. I do not see how you can conclude that it is right now the dominant coalition.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 03:49:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Especially as the Government is now in full frontal attack mode challenging even the "seal of the confessional" and RC control of schools and shows no sign of losing public support for doing so.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 05:29:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It makes a perfect case study -- will the dominant coalition prevail or not?  A big part of this is identifying the elements of the challenging coalition. Do they have enough unity and share enough of the same core values and beliefs to be able to remain together long term?  Or is this just a temporary collusion of interests, which would allow the Church's supporters, which are certainly more united and share similar core values and beliefs, to just return from the hills like the Taliban when the dust settles down and when the crazy fascist politicians are back to fighting with the progressives they had allied with only briefly just to fight the Church.
by santiago on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 03:12:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a real problem with your reducing to a political power struggle a struggle between the advocates of child protection and the advocates of ecclesiastical power and privilege as some kind of interesting laboratory experiment. It's like Fox News providing "balanced" coverage by giving equal time to climate change deniers, creationists, abortion is murder, and libertarians advocating legalisation of paedophilia as they do to the opponents of such views.

Of course at a simplistic level, all arguments and struggles can crystallise around two "sides" but that does not give them moral equivalence or an equality of factual evidence in their favour.

You in fact condemn the RC Church by its own tenets if you reduce the argument to those terms and their is a struggle going on within the RC church (led by a minority -in terms of power if not numbers - and including Archbishop Martin) who would like to re-align the Church behind the advocates of child protection.

There will be a national referendum seeking to write the rights of children explicitly into the Constitution next year which - depending on the wording - will be endorsed by 90%+ of the people.  If the Church follows your lead it will end up on the minority side of that argument and be utterly crushed.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 04:29:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, that's exactly how it works.  You know it's not the dominant coalition any more when actual policy shifts sharply against it in a number of domains in which it has interests, which, after everything that has gone on for over a decade, still hasn't happened.  

It might happen, after this episode especially, but it's loss will likely be gradual, with periodic resurgence, as has been the case for at least a few decades now, not a tectonic shift as Frank was suggesting.  

by santiago on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 02:53:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I'm not fighting for the rights of the church, but I am fighting against an increase in the power of the state to police sexual misdeeds. It is ironic that the Church, of all groups, would end up on the same side of a fight to keep the state out of personal sexual affairs, i.e., the right of individuals to engage in socially unacceptable sexual activities, but, as the Spanish say, asi es.

It is true that as a result of keeping the state out of private sexual affairs there may be more possibilities of occasional incidences of tragedies, such as abuse of children, but I do not agree that such incidences are so grave that they warrant any increase in the authority of the state to intervene in the private affairs of individuals or of civil society, including religious organizations.

by santiago on Sun Jul 17th, 2011 at 02:20:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Ireland you would be in a minority of one. I have NEVER heard anyone make the argument here that the state is too engaged in protecting children from sexual abuse. The state HAS decriminalised homosexuality, promoted contraception, and encouraged civil unions as it has distanced itself from the Church - but it was the Church which had promoted those restrictions on sexual freedom, not the state.

Indeed we may be about the elect a (Protestant) gay campaigner to the Presidency who's life's work has been to liberalise Irish social and sexual laws. The notion that the Church guarantees greater personal freedom in sexual matters has been the subject of many a comedy routine in Ireland.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 17th, 2011 at 03:56:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the mere claims of children regarding sexual abuse supersede the rights of others to be free of state intrusion in private affairs, then, indeed the state is the principal threat, in Ireland or anywhere else. We have to be able to accept the imperfections in our rules and institutions in order to remain free of unwarranted state intrusion in our lives.

This appears to be a failure of individuals or organizations, not a failure of rules, so although light should certainly be given to those failures and upon the people who did them, I would oppose any new laws to "protect children" because those laws will certainly be used to harm others, including children, by the blunt authority of the state.  The damage done by sexual abuse to the victims, as bad is it might be in many cases, simply does not, in any way, approach the level of harm that would warrant increasing the power of the state to intervene everyone's personal and sexual lives.

by santiago on Sun Jul 17th, 2011 at 06:11:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds like an argument for legalising paedophilia to me

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 17th, 2011 at 06:17:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, not at all. But it might be an argument for being less aggressive in implementing existing laws on the matter and instead to focus on other, more critical threats to both children and public safety at large.  There are pedophiles, and children need to be protected from them, but most of the accusations of sexual abuse, within the Church and without, are simply not pedophile in nature, although the label gets attached to them.

In the end, although we know that the Catholic Church has done a poor job to date of protecting some children within its care, we really have zero evidence that state authority would protect children any better, especially since there are even stronger incentives for individuals, including victims, to hide things in order to prevent state sanctions against people one cares about. Just like criminalizing abortion is the wrong way to go about reducing incidences of abortion, giving more power to the state is the wrong way to go about reducing incidences of pedophilia.

by santiago on Sun Jul 17th, 2011 at 06:26:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
But it might be an argument for being less aggressive in implementing existing laws on the matter and instead to focus on other, more critical threats to both children and public safety at large.

Astonishment - what other "threats" are you talking about?

Your attempts to mimimise the seriousness sexual crimes against children give me the greatest concerns regarding your true motives

If some of these crimes are being committed by people who are not paedophiles, this does not in the least reduce their seriousness - although it may give grounds to those who argue that the Church's rules on celibacy are part of the cause behind the problem.

santiago:

we really have zero evidence that state authority would protect children any better, especially since there are even stronger incentives for individuals, including victims, to hide things in order to prevent state sanctions against people one cares about.

State authority has put many of the perpetrators behind bars for a very long time - what more evidence do you want?

There is zero evidence that children withheld evidence because they "cared about" their abusers.  The evidence is that they were scared of their abusers because their abusers were in positions of authority, and in some cases, they were sworn to secrecy by other priests (claiming to be "helping them") on pain of excommunication.  In other cases their parents or others in in authority simply didn't believe them or didn't investigate robustly enough because of the power of the Church.

Everything you say leads me to conclude that you are in fact arguing for the tolerance of paedophilia as the lesser of two evils - the greater evil, in your view, being more effective action by the state in prosecuting abusers.

That is precisely the sort of attitude which led to the cover up of such crimes in the first place. I can only conclude you are an apologist for abusers.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 17th, 2011 at 06:55:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, Frank, but I'm pretty close to this field based on some unfortunate circumstances that have occurred to people close to me.  Furthermore, a very good friend of mine is also one of the leading forensic psychiatrists in the US, and whose job is to put such offenders behind bars and keep them there, something he does very well.

The facts of the matter are that sexual abuse of the kind perpetrated in the worst of the Irish cases, particularly of the grave kind that cause long term injury, are very rare -- among the least likely things to happen to a child.  This doesn't mean that efforts should not be made to protect them or to put their abusers into jail or into treatment when needed, but it does mean that our focus as a society on these kinds of crimes has a lot more to do with the salaciousness of the events and with other agendas to contest power with organizations like the Church, among others, than it has to do with protecting kids.  

It also means that putting more resources toward protecting children from any of the other more likely causes of severe injury or distress, including physical punitive child abuse by parents or peers, drug abuse, and vehicular injuries are a much better place to focus law enforcement or, better, public health, resources.  My problem with this whole argument on sexual abuse is that, like terrorism, the actual numbers of people affected is incredibly small, while lots of kids are hurt more severely everyday by more mundane crimes that lack the same public attention. This means that this has everything to do with social construction and a power struggle between the Church and its opponents, including the state, and very little, if anything, to do with protecting kids.

by santiago on Sun Jul 17th, 2011 at 08:26:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I, too, have been rather closer to this than I would have wished, and I can assure you the numbers severely effected are not trivial.  Improved child protection services will protect kids from abuse from a wide variety of sources - parents, "significant others", strangers, people in authority, and yes priests - whose numbers are so depleted now they will in any case form a smaller and smaller proportion of the problem. Perhaps the greatest single contribution to reducing the incidence of abuse is improved education of kids, "stay safe" programmes, and improvements in children's own self esteem.  The evolution of society into a less authoritarian form with less deference to authority will also help.  Forget the Church - it is becoming irrelevant in all of this - it has imploded under its own hypocrisy.  Society will have to deal with this as best it can with the resources available.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 17th, 2011 at 08:55:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are pedophiles, and children need to be protected from them, but most of the accusations of sexual abuse, within the Church and without, are simply not pedophile in nature, although the label gets attached to them.

This is probably true in some times and places, but you are doing these innocent people a grave disservice by conflating them with the organised criminal conspiracy headed by the Vatican to protect priests who raped children. Organising a coverup is a great way to start witch hunts when it is blown open - as it almost invariably eventually is.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 03:30:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's true.  There is no love lost between me and the Vatican for that and other shenanigans.  But what I object to, period, is any expansion in the authority of the state to intervene in personal affairs, especially personal affairs of a sexual nature, even when children are allegedly involved, and even regarding the Catholic Church. The church has done no one any favors here by policing itself so poorly, but that doesn't mean the state needs to have more any more power over private, civil society organizations or individuals.
by santiago on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 04:23:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We will have to agree to disagree on that point. I believe that the asymmetry of power between a child and an adult - particularly when said adult is a caregiver - necessitates and ligitimises the use of state power to police the relationship. Reasonable people can differ over how much intrusion is warranted into asymmetric power relationships, but I find it to be a basic function of government to police such asymmetries of power.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 04:35:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Being a parent myself, I've often found the asymmetries in power between children and their caregivers to be somewhat less than they are usually imagined to be, even by parents.
by santiago on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 04:42:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And in most functional families, children gradually approach parity with their parents as they approach adulthood.  However we are talking about abusive relationships in dysfunctional families in this case - and often whilst the kids are still very young.

A line has to be drawn somewhere, and in Ireland physical and sexual abuse within or outside the family has been deemed to be beyond the pale.  Some teachers, have, for instance, complained that the banning of corporate punishment has made it more difficult to control difficult children in their classes - particularly during the years immediately following the introduction of the ban. However teachers upped their game, upskilled themselves, and now only a few doddery old-timers would want to go back to the good old times when they could cane with impunity.

Children's self esteem, educational attainment, and ability to relate non-violently and without bullying with their peers has meantime improved out of all recognition in the years since.

Who would have thought?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 05:03:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By your own tenets of real politique the Church's power is shrinking rapidly and the state is being sucked into the power vacuum in its wake.  Of course this may result in state power over-reach in some instances - as in the case of some social work scandals in the UK where children were removed from their families on the flimsiest evidence of abuse and without the countervailing risk of poor care in foster or institutional care being factored into the intervention decision. No family situation is ideal and state supervision/support of children at risk in problem families is preferable in all but the most extreme circumstances.

However this is not a case of the state seeking more over adults, but a state being dragged kicking and screaming into providing more adequate support and care to children at risk having all to conveniently pawned off that responsibility to private charities and  church organisations in the past.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 04:40:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's not quite the way I'd put it, real politik style.  

Power never gets sucked anywhere.  Power isn't a victim -- it's always the perpetrator. The Catholic Church and the state have been in contest for some time, with the Church, for some reason, being able to hold more sway in Ireland than in rest of the Catholic world. The scandals have weakened the church's support group somewhat, and the state, pushed by enemies of the church's supporters, is taking advantage of that weakness and going in for the kill.

Here is what concerns me about the intrusion into the confessional that the state wants: Sometime, soon after the the law is passed, a young woman who has been caring for her sick mother for years will come into a confessional and confess to giving her too much morphine and thereby killing her because, after all the trouble it was to take care of her and the pain she saw her mother, she just couldn't take it anymore and she let her hand slip on the needle.  Today when that happens, the priest takes her confession, tells her she has been forgiven and to forgive herself and move on.  Tomorrow, after the law is passed, the priest will have to dutifully call the police and have her arrested. That's not justice, and that, and other similar events that happen every day, outweigh the need of the state to know what the church or other groups do behind closed doors.

by santiago on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 04:56:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Only if,

a) She fucks her to death

and

b) Her mother is a minor.

The mooted law relates specifically to child sexual abuse.

Anyway, the priest can always choose to go to jail instead and live by their principles. Not a problem.

The system here has not worked at all: we're apparently going to change it, and the concern is for the private institution that facilitated the problem, not for the people it affected. I wonder how they managed to get away with it for so long?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 05:12:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wasn't aware of its limitations. Thanks.
by santiago on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 06:49:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And this is where perhaps where Irish and US state norms are very different. In Ireland, on hearing that evidence, the relevant police officer - or his superior - will check the facts and then proceed to do nothing.

When my wife was at home dying of Breast Cancer we had a plentiful supply of Oxycontin in the house.  I could, at any time, have ended her misery and there wouldn't have been any questions asked.  As it happened she died far more quickly that I had thought possible. I was in shock and denial.  However afterwards there was no post mortem.  The family doctor signing the death cert didn't even examine her or question me.  I though afterwards that it would have been very easy for a husband to kill his wife in unwarranted circumstances and no one would have intervened.  If anything I had too much freedom, freedom I perhaps didn't want, and fortunately freedom I didn't have to exercise.  

Your image of a remote, hostile, unfeeling state - contrasted with an idealisation of private institutions - is one that is entirely foreign to me.  The state, when it functions well is the instrument and guarantor of society whilst private institutions are often the vehicle of special interests.  

It mirrors - to me - the US libertarian identification of freedom as rule by omnipotent private corporations in contrast with the tyranny and totalitarianism of (a very weak) state.  At least the state is subject to some democratic accountability whereas private corporations answer only to the financial interests of the already rich. You have the choice of rule by democracy or rule by theocracy/kleptocracy, and US conservatives/libertarians seem to prefer the latter.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 05:21:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, your description of police action is exactly what would happen in the US if you are the victim.  Though, oddly, it will always seem to act with strict, professional, aggressiveness to sanction you if you happen to the the alleged perpetrator of a crime instead of the victim, and I'm sure the case is similar in Ireland as well.
by santiago on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 07:17:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is what concerns me about the intrusion into the confessional that the state wants: Sometime, soon after the the law is passed, a young woman who has been caring for her sick mother for years will come into a confessional and confess to giving her too much morphine and thereby killing her because, after all the trouble it was to take care of her and the pain she saw her mother, she just couldn't take it anymore and she let her hand slip on the needle.  Today when that happens, the priest takes her confession, tells her she has been forgiven and to forgive herself and move on.  Tomorrow, after the law is passed, the priest will have to dutifully call the police and have her arrested.

So priests are no longer considered mental health professionals with discretionary reporting authority. Deal with that. If she tells her father, he will also have a legal obligation to report her to the police.

Incidentally, the police and prosecutor will, presumably, still have an amount of discretionary power to not prosecute the case. What's happening here is that this power is revoked from an institution that has proven unfit to handle it responsibly.

(And for the record, I think it's a bad idea to revoke the confidentiality of the confessional. But it is an understandable reaction to the institutional failures that have come to light, and well within the legitimate power of a democratic state.)

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 05:24:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and if you read my draft LTE above, you will note there are no known instances where reporting actual confessions would have made any difference.  What the Cloyne report revealed was that the Bishop had falsified a report for the Diocesan files/state authority on the grounds that the admission of guilt was part of a privilege priest/bishop conversation - not an actual confession. (had it been in the confessional, the Bishop would not even have been able to report the admission to Rome).

However, even though the letter argues that sacerdotal privilege has to go , if only to provoke a profound change of attitude from Irish Bishops and the Vatican - I would not lose any sleep if it were retained, as I don't believe it would make any great practical difference, and in some cases a confession hearing priest may actually be able to persuade an abuser to confess to the civil authorities in any case.

What we need to do is to change the institutional attitude that the Vatican (as a sovereign state) and Irish priests/bishops are above the law.  Once that principle and the attitudes flowing from it are conceded, I have no problem with "the seal of the confessional"  In fact I would have a great deal of sympathy for a priest who hears of an abuser's confession and can do nothing to protect the children of his parish.  In true Irish fashion, the priest might have an oblique conversation with a local guard suggesting he keep an eye out for certain children without, of course, revealing anything of the confession.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 05:42:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I'm sure you've gathered, I'm just not a big believer in "the law."  Give me a Somali pirate and the US Navy, and I'd probably take the Somali pirates' side, scoundrels, rapists, and all. That members of the church have turned out to be scoundrels is not particularly problematic for me.  It makes them more human, flawed and likable in my eyes. I don't let them off for abusing anyone and being dishonest about it -- that's precisely the kind of thing I fear the state doing too.  But when we start to talk about sexual misdeeds and increasing the state power to police them, alarm bells go off and I start to feel like I'd be more at home with philandering clerics and molesters in the church than with her self-righteous enemies, holding up "children's safety" as banner to hunt down yet another category of sexual perverts for sport and power.
by santiago on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 07:44:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The law can be used to impose the power of the powerful on the weak, or to protect the weak from the powerful.  It depends on the intent and on the practical effect. In a functioning democracy and healthy political culture it will be much more of the latter.  

I share your distaste for do-gooding holy joes - if only because their latent intentions and practical effect is often the opposite of what they claim. However your rejection of state power as a prioiri at the expense of legitimate individual freedoms is to me as ideological as the holy joe trying to impose their morality on everyone else.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 07:55:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My rejection of state power is not a priori, just a bias.  What I look for is whether state power can actually do anything to protect the weak from the powerful, and in the issue at hand here, I don't see that.  Instead I see the opportunistic use of state power to gain ground in a much older and ongoing power struggle between the Church and those in secular Irish society who resent the Church.  We have no reason to believe that child abuse in Ireland is limited to the Church -- we just know that it has occurred in the church.  

What a law requiring the church to turn over confessional evidence regarding possible child abuse does is to threaten probably the most useful thing a church can do -- provide for the possibility forgiveness and reconciliation among people who have done bad things to others instead of punishment and revenge -- that is provide for an alternative kind of justice.  The fact that some may have abused this alternative does not mean it should be taken away for everyone, nor does it mean that the punishment alternative is necessarily better or more just.

by santiago on Thu Jul 21st, 2011 at 11:23:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We have no reason to believe that child abuse in Ireland is limited to the Church -- we just know that it has occurred in the church.

Actually, under the present configuration of the church, we do: It is an extremely attractive environment for abusers to insinuate themselves into. So even if the church does not actively promote abuse (which is not wholly clear, given its unhealthy views on sexuality in general), there is likely to be a higher rate of abuse in the church than in lay society simply from a historical legacy of abusers seeking positions of authority in the church.

But even that is beside the point, because we have every reason to believe that the church is both more inclined to and more effective in arranging coverups of such crimes. Given the choice between abuse which is not covered up and abuse which is covered up, the obvious choice is to go with abuse which is not covered up.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jul 22nd, 2011 at 12:24:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I know, and I agree that the church has proven unfit to handle its license.  But there has never been a counter-factual analysis of sexual abuse done in these cases. We know the church has screwed up pretty badly, but we have no reason to believe that the state, or any other way of doing things, would really do any better. There are ample cases of the state doing worse -- innocent people dying in jail for lack of the right medicine, or paperwork getting lost that allows a murder to later happen, etc.

In the end, you still have to rely on rules and judgements, and I just don't trust the state with those kinds of things. I would still trust a flawed, civil society organization like the church more, precisely because it lacks the power to apply force and violence like the state does, to deal with those matters, even if I believed that all church clergy were, at heart, perverts, pimps, and fiends.

by santiago on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 07:26:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The church is not being sanctioned for incompetence. It is being sanctioned for demonstrable and actionable active collusion.

This is not a minor distinction.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 07:47:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think anyone here is arguing that the church should not be sanctioned (in this case meaning being held financially liable) in cases where it colluded to protect criminals of the worst sort -- predators of children.  

The issue at hand here isn't sanctions but contesting power with the church and using the state as the tool to do it.  A law to take away the privacy of the confessional isn't a sanction against anyone -- it's the imposition of power on one group -- the church, by other groups, using the tools of the state to do it. I see that not so much as a threat to the church (which wouldn't be all that bad in my eyes given what the church has failed to do) but a threat to civil society in general.  It allows political discourse to use the unique powers of the state -- law and force -- to compel others into submission.  Not a good thing for democracy or a progressive society.

by santiago on Thu Jul 21st, 2011 at 11:32:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it's just holding the Church to the same rules as everyone else: what is at issue is whether or not crazy people can claim that the rules of their magic unicorn sun god override the rules of the state or not.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jul 21st, 2011 at 11:50:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, that's not it at all.  The issue is whether the church, or anyone else in civil society, has the to not snitch.  There are some functions in society, even in the case of children, where privacy outweighs the duty of the state to protect individuals. Being able to confess and discuss one's misdeeds with another trusted person is one such function.

Furthermore, this whole argument on "rule of law" misses the whole purpose of that phrase in democracy.  The idea that someone can't be above the law specifically refers to people in governance functions not being above the law, not to anyone else in society.  Lawmakers should have to abide by their own rules, is what it means.  Others, in a democratic society can still contest those rules by not abiding by them.

by santiago on Thu Jul 21st, 2011 at 03:56:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Civil disobedience does not exempt you from legal punishment.

And transnational corporations are not an appropriate vehicle for civil disobedience. A corporate entity - such as the Catholic Church - which systematically disobeys the law of the land should be brought to heel.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jul 22nd, 2011 at 12:23:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Contesting power and civil disobedience are two different things.  Civil disobedience is one means of contesting power, but really it is only individuals that can do that, not corporate entities (formalized groups).  

Corporate entities are much more capable and likely to simply not "obey" a law than are individuals, and it is their superior power in society that allows them to do so.  Often it leads to sanctions of such organizations and their leaders, but just as often it is the state which is forced to surrender its power (and sometimes also leads to sanctions against government officials).  

There is no reason, a priori, why the Church or any other civil society organization must yield power to the state any more than anyone else does.

by santiago on Mon Aug 1st, 2011 at 01:44:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Conversely, however, there is no a priori reason that the state should not prosecute the advantage it currently holds to secure the maximum possible transfer of power from the church to the state. Whether the church or the state has the more legitimate claim to that power is a policy preference.

The critique you originally presented in this thread is valid insofar as it points out that there is no necessary connection between one's policy preference on the protection of children and one's policy preferences on the power of the church in society. And it is true that opponents of church power have to an extent been couching the latter contest in the language of the former. It is also a valid corollary at this point to note that these opponents of church power are not necessarily committed to securing any meaningful improvement of childcare policy.

But it does not follow that using this opportunity to denude church power is illegitimate.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Aug 4th, 2011 at 09:24:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, that's right. As I said before, I don't really have a dog in the fight between the Irish state and the Catholic Church, other than that I would tend to support the weaker of the two if I had to take a side, and the state, in modern capitalist society, does tend to be stronger than civil society, part of which is the church.  What I object to is the notion that any of this really has anything to do with providing benefits for children rather than merely using children in order to gain a temporary advantage in a much older and ongoing power struggle between church and state.
by santiago on Thu Aug 4th, 2011 at 01:59:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And I think you go too far in objecting to the notion that any of this is related to a dispute over childcare policy. If there was no real dispute on that matter, it would be much more difficult for the church's opponents to shield their offensive behind it.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Aug 4th, 2011 at 02:49:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is related to child care policy.  Namely, it is a hijacking of the child care policy thread to push an ancillary, anti-Catholic Church policy objective.  That objective may have merits on its own, but it's dishonest to claim that it will yield any positive policy outcomes for actual children.
by santiago on Fri Aug 5th, 2011 at 01:48:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The fact that the two are not logically related does not make them mutually exclusive. Advocacy for improved childcare policy and advocacy for disestablishmentarianism are perfectly compatible, unless one is a disestablishmentarian who views the church as the best institution for organised childcare. If you believe that more than a handful such people exist within the Irish body politic, I have some common stock in AIG and Bear Stearns that you may wish to buy.

The two may even be complimentary if the church opposes one's preferred childcare policy on the grounds that it was invented sometime after the fifteenth century...

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 5th, 2011 at 07:07:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They could be mutually consistent, but that doesn't mean that they are.  My argument here is that there really isn't any evidence to indicate that anything regarding Irish anti-Church policymaking is going to result in positive outcomes for children.  It appears that it may result in some positive outcomes for a few adults who were abused as children, however.
by santiago on Tue Aug 9th, 2011 at 10:04:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I count a reduction in the amount of sectarian indoctrination children are subjected to as a positive outcome for childcare. And all else being equal, taking the church out of the schools is likely to bring about such a reduction.

Whether we will see less rape of children in secular childcare is an empirical question. But if I had to bet money, I would say yes. For the simple reason that the secular childcare institutions are unlikely to have a blanket policy of covering up abuses, which means that repeat offences become less probable.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Aug 10th, 2011 at 06:20:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And you can be kicked out of your local bowling club too if you're problematic enough for your friends, but it's still in an entirely different category than the kinds of things that actual state power can organize to be done to you.

That is a surprising statement for someone who in other contexts understands the importance and power of institutions and social convention over people's lives.

Besides, a bowling club that explicitly instructs its members under pain of expulsion to keep mum about violent crime can, in most jurisdictions, be dissolved by a court for engaging in organised criminal activity.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 03:15:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And so could the Catholic Church if those allegations were ever to be proven before some kind of magistrate, which, to my knowledge, they have not. (But it wouldn't surprise me if they were true, either.)

The point is that being kicked out of a club, like being kicked out of one's church, can be tough, but they are both entirely, and frequently, reversible and non-violent.  They are no where near the category of force that can be employed by the state to harm you if you end up on the wrong side of someone's social construction of you, especially if you are innocent of the accusations, as most (but not all) people accused of sexual abuse against children turn out to be, even in civil cases which don't have the difficulty of preponderance of evidence that criminal matters do.

by santiago on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 04:32:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They are no where near the category of force that can be employed by the state to harm you if you end up on the wrong side of someone's social construction of you, especially if you are innocent of the accusations

In most of the cases where innocent people have been accused of child abuse and arrested, the state has not been the party that inflicted the greatest harm on their lives - that has been the press and society at large through conviction by 46 pt. headline. In other words, a penalty of the same nature and severity as religious excommunication.

At least that has been the case in societies where the police behaves in a reasonably civilised fashion. The American experience may be different, but that would point to broader issues with the way your criminal justice system treats its suspects.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 04:44:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Cloyne (and the 3 other enquiries into Church abuse) were all led by judges and the Church has not disputed the findings. I also think you underestimate the long lasting trauma a threat of excommunication to kids of devout parents if they reveal their abuse can do to them. - probably much worse than a jail term for an adult.

However no one is talking about dissolving the Catholic church - merely of ensuring it becomes compliant with Irish law. It is you who is casting this in apocalyptic terms as the end of personal freedom or an unwarranted intrusion in private matters. Most people (in Ireland) would consider legal compliance the least one could expect of the church. In fact true believers would probably expected higher standards than mere minimal compliance of their church than in the secular world outside.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 18th, 2011 at 04:53:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Clergy doing right thing is about timing not morality - Analysis, Opinion - Independent.ie
Primate Sean Brady insists the long-awaited report into the mishandling of child sex abuse allegations by the diocese of Cloyne is "another dark day" in the history of the Irish Church. In this, as in so much else, he is entirely wrong. Any day on which light is cast on the obscure, murky workings of the Church is a day of illumination rather than darkness. That what it reveals is so utterly vile and contemptible is another matter altogether.

A previous such occasion, of course, was when Sean Brady's own involvement in the cover-up of priestly perversion was revealed in 2009, when the faithful discovered how he had, 30 years earlier as part of an internal investigation into allegations against notorious paedophile Fr Brendan Smyth, made children sign oaths not to tell anyone that they had been abused.

Smyth, one of the most repulsive characters ever to wear priestly garb, went on to abuse dozens more innocents before being finally arrested; but even then, Primate Brady refused to take full responsibility by resigning, claiming that he was, in effect, only following orders, and that this was how things were back then. He also claimed that the current climate was a "totally different one to that of the past".

It was a line echoed by Ian Elliott, CEO of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, who also said in 2009 that the progress towards better procedure had been "truly remarkable" and that there were now "champions for children" in place who wouldn't let the same mistakes be made. "Remarkable" was bad enough, as if now allowing children not to be abused was some massive achievement, rather than the absolute minimum anyone could expect from those entrusted with their care; but it now turns out that these lauded champions weren't up to the job either.

The report by Judge Yvonne Murphy shows conclusively that, as late as 2009, the diocese of Cloyne was still not following proper procedures on the reporting of sex abuse which the Church was supposed to have adopted 12 years earlier. In fact, they went further and deliberately misled the State about what they were doing. Despite the fact an internal church report in 2003 had found that Cloyne was putting children in danger by not following up allegations thoroughly, Bishop John Magee still told the late Brian Lenihan, then minister for children, that they were fully compliant, when they weren't even bothering to make private enquiries as to whether accused priests had targeted other children.

And what is the response to all this? John Magee has vanished into the mist, maybe America, no one seems to know -- which is to say that the Vatican surely knows, but they're not saying either -- and all that's come from him is a statement, issued through a PR company in Dublin, Young Communications, containing the usual blether about how sad it all is. The Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, for his part, merely said it would be "helpful" if Magee came forward to answer allegations fully.

It makes a slap on the wrist look like the Spanish Inquisition in comparison, not to mention a mockery of the Vatican's promise last year that "civil law concerning the reporting of crimes ... should always be followed."



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 17th, 2011 at 05:32:20 AM EST
This article is worth reading in full, but here is an extract
'Brazen' church disregard for child protection, says Kenny - The Irish Times - Wed, Jul 20, 2011
Taoiseach Enda Kenny today told the Dáil the Cloyne report exposed an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate the inquiry into clerical sex abuse.

Addressing the House, Mr Kenny said: "The rape and torture of children were downplayed or `managed' to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and `reputation'.

"Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal with St Benedict's "ear of the heart" . . . the Vatican's reaction was to parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer. . . . This calculated, withering position being the polar opposite of the radicalism, humility and compassion upon which the Roman Church was founded."

"The revelations of the Cloyne report have brought the Government, Irish Catholics and the Vatican to an unprecedented juncture," the Taoiseach said.

"It's fair to say that after the Ryan and Murphy reports Ireland is, perhaps, unshockable when it comes to the abuse of children. But Cloyne has proved to be of a different order.

"Because for the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual-abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See, to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic . . . as little as three years ago, not three decades ago. And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism . . . the narcissism . . . that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day."



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 20th, 2011 at 02:27:16 PM EST


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