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August 17, 2003

How do you say “smoking gun” in ecclesiastical Latin?
Posted by Teresa at 01:37 PM *

The BBC news story, Vatican ‘ordered abuse cover-up’, overstates things. What the story does demonstrate, though, is that (1.) the Vatican-an’-all knew what was going on; and (2.) they had entirely the wrong reaction to it.

Observations:
Well, you can’t say I’m an opportunist.

The Vatican and Curia aren’t the church. The church is the church. Good thing, too.

Vexing though the situation is, I still prefer this to “Truth is whatever the current prophet has most recently said it is,” and “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done.”
Comments on How do you say "smoking gun" in ecclesiastical Latin?:
#1 ::: marek ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 02:01 PM:

Full text is at

http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Observer/documents/2003/08/16/Criminales.pdf

... but be warned, it's a 1.8 Mb pdf.

#2 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 02:08 PM:

I'd say "arma fumo," myself.

#3 ::: Reimer Behrends ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 02:28 PM:

"manuballistula fumans" or "pistolium fumans".

#5 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 05:43 PM:

I went to look at some of the background documents and found something that would chill _me_ if I were a Catholic. The only person who can accuse the priest who has solicited is the person solicited. If they do not do so in the appropriate manner to the appropriate person within one month, they are excommunicate.

"The penitent must denounce the accused priest of the delict of solicitation in confession within a month to the Ordinary of the place or to the Holy Congregation of the Holy Office; and the confessor must, burdened seriously in conscience, to warn the penitent of this duty.

The faithful, however, who knowingly have disregarded the obligation to denounce the person by whom he was solicited, within a month, falls into an excommunication, not to be absolved unless after he has satisfies the obligation or has promised seriously that he would do so.

The duty of denunciation is a personal one and is to be fulfilled regularly by the person himself who has been solicited."

I do note that it says "knowingly" there -- if this entire document is supposed to be kept secret, how is the solicited person to know they should come forward, or to whom?

If the person is excommunicate, aren't all their sacraments invalid, even if they don't know they're excommunicate? And with the publication of this secret document, do all those who don't come forward within a month become excommunicate under the "can be reasonably expected to have known" rule?

I honestly don't know the answers to any of these, having paid a certain amount of attention to historical excommunication and interdict but never having been a Catholic. I'd like to know, though -- any help?

Cheers,
Tom

#6 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 06:02 PM:

The way I read it, Tom, the priest who has solicited the penitent is required to inform the person he just solicited:

It goes like this:

Penitant: "Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I committed acts of physical impurity with three different boys in the last twenty-four hours."

Priest: "Really! What are you doing after Confession?"

Penitant: "I didn't have any plans, why?"

Priest: "Meet me behind the rectory at six o'clock and I'll show you."

Penitant: "It's a date!"

Priest: "Oh, by the way, baby, I've just committed a crime under Canon Law. You're required, under pain of excommunication, to inform the Inquisition within one month."

=======

The only person who can accuse the priest who has solicited is the person solicited.

No, it doesn't say that. It says "regularly by the person himself who has been solicited." "Regularly" means, "in the normal course of events." It doesn't mean that only that one person can make the report.

The faithful person who has been solicited comes to know of the requirement to report the offense because it is the duty of any priest comes to know of the solicitation to inform the penitant of the requirement, including the priest who made the original solicitation.

======

Out of my way, girls, I have to gargle.

======

"I got six Our Fathers, ten Hail Marys, and three names for Friday night."

#7 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 07:04 PM:

I know a basketball coach they can hire now because he's available.

#8 ::: Reimer Behrends ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 07:29 PM:
Tom wrote: I do note that it says "knowingly" there -- if this entire document is supposed to be kept secret, how is the solicited person to know they should come forward, or to whom?

There's nothing secret about the crime of solicitation (inducing a penitent to carnal sin in conjunction with a sacramental confession) and what is to be done about it. You can find all the details here in the Catholic Encyclopedia, for example.

It works as follows. (1) The victim speaks to another confessor about having been solicited. (2) The confessor hears that and now has to inform the victim about his or her obligation to denounce the culprit. (3) Should the victim not denounce the culprit within a month of having been informed of that, and without sufficient excuse, the victim is automatically considered excommunicated.

Yes, that puts a lot of pressure on the victim. The purpose is to make sure that the culprit does not have the chance to victimize other innocents or to further abuse the sacrament of confession.

#9 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 07:42 PM:

Further commentry in the Observer.

If not a smoking gun, it's the next thing to it:

The document proves there was intent within the Catholic Church to force both the molestor and the victim into silence.

We know that there have been many instances over the years where senior clerics within the Catholic Church concealed a priest's tendency to molest children and packed the priest off to a parish where he would not be known as a child-molester.

What "Rev Thomas Doyle, a US Air Force chaplain in Germany and a specialist in Church law" says is: "If this document has been used as a justification for this intimidation then we possibly have what some commentators have alleged, namely, a blueprint for a cover-up. This is obviously a big 'if' which requires concrete proof."

Not a lawyer, but it seems damned close to a smoking gun to me. I suppose it's like the police discovering a document online which outlines a plan for (for example) blowing up the Brooklyn Bridge, after the Brooklyn Bridge has been blown up by a strategy identical to that described in the document. You can prove that someone is the author of the document: but what would it take to make the author of the document an accessory to the act?

It seems to me that the point at which you could consider the author of the document at least partially guilty would be if you could prove that the author had distributed the document to people whom the author knew were likely to carry out the instructions, and if you could prove that the author intended that the people to whom it was distributed should carry out the instructions. Would it make a difference if the author included specific threats to the people to whom it was distributed if they did not carry out the instructions?


#10 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 08:10 PM:

The document proves there was intent within the Catholic Church to force both the molestor and the victim into silence.

What part of "the penitent must denounce the accused priest" under pain of excommunication forces the victim into silence?

The molester himself has his own motive to keep his acts secret. As for the victim:

"Even though the wicked confessor has since amended his life, or though the crime of solicitation took place many years ago, the obligation of denouncing him still remains, because the law is made, not merely to procure amendment, but also to inflict punishment. If the penitent, without sufficient cause, does not make the denunciation within a month from the time he or she has learned the obligation to do so, excommunication is incurred ipso facto. When the negligence has been repaired, any approved priest may absolve from the excommunication. If the penitent has reasonable ground for fearing serious damage to self or family from a formal denunciation, some other method of informing on the delinquent priest may be sought for."

Here's what the Observer and the BBC are hanging their hats on: "Bishops are directed to pay no attention whatever to anonymous letters of denunciation."

The Observer's commentary proves that British anti-Catholicism is alive and well.

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 08:33 PM:

Jim, Reimer, is that a "may not take communion until amended" excommunication, or the full deal with the snuffed candles? I suspect it's the former, and that some readers are taking it for the latter.

Tom, I think (I am only an egg hereabouts) that the reason that only the person who's been solicited in the confessional can accuse the priest who did it -- I'm sorry, this makes overcomplicated sentences no matter how I rephrase it -- is that no one else is entitled to talk about what transpired during his confession.

#12 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 08:43 PM:

I didn't even know there were different flavors of excommunication! Is there a taxonomy of them available? I do know there's a difference between excommunication and interdict, so I guess I'm not totally hopeless....

#13 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 09:24 PM:

James D. Macdonald: What part of "the penitent must denounce the accused priest" under pain of excommunication forces the victim into silence?

Depends who the victim is supposed to denounce the accused priest to, and what the person to whom the victim is supposed to denounce the priest is supposed to do, doesn't it? As far as I can see, the victim is supposed to tell only another priest, and all the clerics involved are supposed to keep very very quiet about it all.

The Observer's commentary proves that British anti-Catholicism is alive and well.

Sure it does. Like criticising Israel's actions in the Occupied Territories "proves" that anti-Semitism is alive and well.

To argue that it is anti-Catholic to criticise the Catholic church when it acts immorally and illegally is just, well... I don't really have a word for it.


#14 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 09:41 PM:

"To argue that it is anti-Catholic to criticise the Catholic church when it acts immorally and illegally is just, well... I don't really have a word for it."

As it happens, Jim Macdonald didn't argue any such thing. Indeed, Jim has himself criticised the Catholic church authorities for acting immorally and illegally. In fact, he's done it right here in this weblog's comment sections.

What I think Jim is suggesting was that the Observer's commentary was tinged with more than a bit of nonsense about what Catholics think and how the church works, which is pretty commonly the case in English journalism on this subject. Even those of us who think the church authorities deserve harsh criticism frequently wince at the hamhandedness and ignorance of the British press, including the BBC, on these subjects.

#15 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 09:55 PM:

So, exactly what is inaccurate about what the Observer reports? This is a serious question.

I've just checked the Observer article through again, and I can't see any reference at all to anything about "what Catholics think". So I'll set that criticism aside, unless you can point out to me something I've missed.

It may well be inaccurate in describing how the church works: there I confess ignorance, having been brought up a Quaker, which has a much flatter (um, porridge-like?) structure.

However, I think the point is that we know that the clerics in the Catholic church in the UK did in fact act to cover up the reputation of priests accused of molestation or rape, and never acted of their own will to bring priests accused of sexual molestation or rape to secular judgement for their crimes. (If not speaking from personal knowledge here, I'm speaking from first-hand report: I used to know someone very well who told me once, in exhausted horror, of a priest who liked boys: at least one boy had told his parents, the bishop had been informed - and the priest had been transferred to Ireland, on the pragmatic basis that Irish parents were much less likely to kick up a public fuss. The person who told me this story was a Catholic, and the last 17 words of the preceding sentence was exactly his judgement on the reason for the transfer to Ireland. He didn't know what to do either - to a degree that he never told me the priest's name.)

How is what they did different from what this document seems to suggest that they should do? (Again, a serious question.)

#16 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 10:11 PM:

Yonmei: my point was and is that, contrary to your accusation, Jim is not "arguing that it is anti-Catholic to criticise the Catholic church when it acts immorally and illegally." Jim is making a specific assertion about the Observer's coverage. Jim has a long record of being critical of the Church over these issues, and your ugly mischaracterization of his argument is flat out unfair.

Whether Jim is right about the Observer's coverage or not is a different question. But you aren't going to have a decent discussion of that if your basic approach is to accuse Jim of wholesale intellectual dishonesty. Which is what you've done. I've pointed it out to you once, and your response has been to try to shift the argument over to whether the Observer's coverage is any good or not. You know something: no sale. Your stated position is that Jim Macdonald considers any criticism of the Catholic church's authorities to be "anti-Catholicism." Are you sticking to that position or not?

#17 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 10:15 PM:

Everybody step back and wait for Jim to speak.

#18 ::: Reimer Behrends ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 10:35 PM:

About types of excommunication: You should find everything you ever wanted to know about excommunication here.

In particular, whether an excommunication is automatic ("ipso facto excommunication latae sententiae") or pronounced by a judge is a separate issue from whether the excommunicated person is to be shunned or tolerated.

#19 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 10:41 PM:

How is what they did different from what this document seems to suggest that they should do? (Again, a serious question.)

Only in that what they did is 180 degrees out from what that document demands that they must do.

What the document requires is that anyone who is aware of this particular crime must report it immediately, that the accused priest must be removed from the opportunity to repeat the offense (that's what the word "occasion" in the document means), that the accusation must be investigated at once regardless of the time expired since the offense (with the sole exception being when the accused priest is already dead), and that the purpose of the investigation is to determine punishment, even if the accused has since amended his ways.

The "secrecy" that is being demanded is the self-same as the secrecy that exists in secular grand jury proceedings. I have yet to see any journalist scream about how the courts are protecting the Mafia by making grand jury procedings secret.

I say that regardless of how individual churchmen, priests and bishops, have acted, claiming that the Church herself has acted immorally and illegally, and that this document proves any such thing, is purest nonsense that comes straight from vulgar prejudice, fueled by anti-Catholicism and seized on by partisans for their own profit.

There, is that strong enough, or shall I state it in yet stronger terms?

#20 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 11:15 PM:

"To argue that it is anti-Catholic to criticise the Catholic church when it acts immorally and illegally is just, well... I don't really have a word for it."

Since the Church has acted neither immorally nor illegally, to claim that it has ... well, I do have a word for it. It's bigotry.

#21 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 11:34 PM:

This, on the other hand, threatens to become a remarkably unuseful argument, turning on different ideas of what is the essence of "the Church."

Teresa's observation that "the Vatican and the Curia aren't the Church" is good Vatican II theology. It's pretty obvious that Yonmei is taking a different position on the question of essence. I disagree, but I don't think Yonmei is being a "bigot."

The problem, which we've seen before, is the inadvertant (and sometimes not inadvertant) rhetorical alliance between (on the one hand) fundamentalists and theological authoritarians in all sects, who want to establish that their pronouncements are the essence of religion -- and (on the other hand) secular religion-bashers, who turn out to be equally eager to demonstrate that the pronouncements (and misbehavior) of religious authoritarians are the essence of religion. Both sides of this argument seem equally eager to dismiss religion as it is actually lived by most religious people: as a nexus of practice, tradition, storytelling, and community.

I'll make one more observation, which is that the many brave and devoted Catholics who are taking a stand against their church's hierarchy deserve better than to be used as rhetorical counters in ancient pissing matches between Faith and No Faith, or Rock-Ribbed English Protestantism versus Popish Corruption.

#22 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 11:37 PM:

But you aren't going to have a decent discussion of that if your basic approach is to accuse Jim of wholesale intellectual dishonesty. Which is what you've done.

Yes, I did, and I apologise for that.

Your stated position is that Jim Macdonald considers any criticism of the Catholic church's authorities to be "anti-Catholicism." Are you sticking to that position or not?

No, I'm not. That was the impression I got, from one post by James MacDonald, and I apologise for that mistaken impression: I was wrong.

Moving on to James MacDonald: I have yet to see any journalist scream about how the courts are protecting the Mafia by making grand jury procedings secret.

But I think you'd hear journalists scream that the courts were protecting the Mafia if the result was that known Mafiosi walked out scot-free, and had done so for decades, concealed by secrecy that the courts imposed. Wouldn't you?

Since the Church has acted neither immorally nor illegally, to claim that it has ... well, I do have a word for it. It's bigotry.

Well, I take your point: you are making a fine but definite distinction between the Church itself, and the clerics of the Church using the authority of the Church. Fair enough. In return, may I make the point that the clerics of the Church who acted immorally and illegally chose to blur that distinction themselves? Or so I see it.

I am honestly not trying to accuse you, as Patrick says above, of intellectual dishonesty. (I was, yes, and I apologise again for that.) But I am really not now, I'm just confused.

I am not certain that when you say Church and I say Church that we are both grokking the word the same way. In fact, I strongly suspect that we're really not, and that this may be the source of the problem. Can you explain to me (or link me to a site) that explains what *you* mean by Church?

#23 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 11:59 PM:

I'll accept having criminals walk free because courts have appropriately protected the confidentiality of proceedings.

The distinction between the church, and the church hierarchy, is not a fine one. It's basic doctrine. I'd explain it if weren't sure that several people here know more about it than I do.

For the record, I have more than once gotten very confused while arguing with Jim. (I'd award a bit of the fault for that to both of us, and blame the rest on our recondite subject matter.) However, I've never seen him be dishonest. Pigheaded, maybe, upon certain rare occasions; and his overmuscled scruples are like something out of an old Charles Atlas ad; but he's a straight-up kind of guy.

#24 ::: Caroline Yeldham ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 06:31 AM:

Perhaps James MacDonald could help me with something that puzzles me about this subject. I'm not catholic, but was educated by nuns to the age of 11.

In order for a priest to say mass, he has to be in a state of grace; ie he has gone to confession - yes? In confession you have to make an act of contrition, which means saying your sins, and promising not to repeat them. Only then can your sins be forgiven. The priest hearing confession does not have to give absolution, he can insist the confessee take practical steps to prevent reocurrance of the sin eg avoidance of the occasion of sin. This can involve confession of a crime to the authorities - the silence of the confessional is only binding on the confessor, not the confessee.

So, how could the confessor's absolve these priests when they knew the act of contrition wasn't true, given they were repeat offenders?

In these circumstances, what is the attitude of the Church authorities or the congregation to the communion given by such priests?

#25 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 07:14 AM:

If I understand you correctly, you're asking a variant of the old question about whether a sacrament performed by a secretly sinful priest is still a sacrament. The answer, I believe, is yes; the belief otherwise is a heresy with a name and everything.

It's the different between religion and magic. A fine point, from some points of view; from others, not.

#26 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 09:06 AM:

Speaking as an Episcopalian observer without a dog in (at least) this particular hunt, it's always seemed to me that identifying the Catholic Church solely with the Vatican and the Curia is rather like identifying science fiction fandom with the Worldcon committee.

#27 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 09:25 AM:

I'm not sure is that's the question Caroline's asking, Patrick. It looks a bit more like Can a priest absolve someone when there's strong evidence that the someone isn't actually contrite? Or maybe Can a priest absolve a sin so big that he himself can't lift it?

#28 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 09:29 AM:

Caroline, no, the priest does _not_ have to be in a state of grace to validly celebrate the Mass. In fact, the idea that the priest does have to be in a state of grace to perform valid sacraments is a heresy, the heresy of Donatism. There's a reasonably good short discussion of it here:

Now, receiving the Eucharist while in a state of sin is another sin, and the priest does receive the Eucharist while celebrating the Mass, but that doesn't affect the validity of the Mass and the sacrament for anyone else. The only thing necessary for the priest to perform valid sacraments is that the priest must have been validly ordained.

If you think through the consequences of doing things the other way--holding baptisms and confessions and marriages invalid if the priest is not in a state of grace, something no one except God and the priest are in a position to know with any real accuracy--I think it will become blindingly apparent why this is regarded as a heresy.

#29 ::: Caroline Yeldham ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 10:11 AM:

Avram is closest to what I mainly meant to ask. How, within the bounds of the Catholic Church (however that is defined) could a priest absolve another of such a sin when they knew they were not truly contrite? I can understand (tho not approve) an organisation breaking the rules of an external legal system, but surely this is running a coach and horses through their own rules?

The Donatist heresy was only a supplementary question. Re Liz's remark, I think it's obvious where the Church ends up when the idea is accepted that a sacrament is invalidated by a priest's sin - at least a portion of the congregration rejects the Church.

I also apologise for the wayward possessive S in my original posting!

#30 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 10:43 AM:

If the confessor has serious enough doubts about the sincerity of a confession, he shouldn't be granting absolution. However, that's a very serious step; see above about the impossibiity of perfectly knowing someone else's true spiritual state.

OTOH, the penance imposed could include a requirement to report one's crimes to the civil authorities. There's no question that the church hierarchy has in fact handled this in grossly, and in many cases criminally, irresponsible ways.

Where the Church winds up if the Donatist heresy is followed is with nearly all the congregation leaving because the church would be in total chaos and unable to tell anyone, ever, whether they were validly married, or validly baptised, or whether the priest who putatively performed those sacraments was even validly ordained a priest. During the middle ages, when the Church was filling many of the roles we've assigned to civil authorities today, this would have resulted in not exclusively spiritual difficulties, but also very practical problems involving inheritance, property, and who, exactly, the civil authorities _were_.

It wouldn't have those disastrous civil consequences now, but it would still make it pretty much impossible for the Church to function at all.

And on a final note--my name is Lis, not Liz. An easy mistake, I know.

#31 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 10:53 AM:

Caroline, if I'm remembering right from my own instruction in the sacrament, only the penetant and God can know if the penetant is truly contrite in a confession. The confessor can not know, but must act as if the penetant is truly contrite. Now, if the penetant confessed later to the same confessor that he were not really contrite the first time, but he is now, the confessor must absolve the penetant of not being contrite, and accept that the person is contrite now, if the penetant says so. (Wow, I haven't written a sentence like that in a long time.)

What disturbs me the most is that the document seems only to deal with solicitations made during confession. This indicates that either 1) the authors of said document had some survey that stated solicitations were most often made in confessionals or 2) the authors could only "control" one avenue of solicitations, and set up the "you must denounce the solicitor or be excommunicated" rule. While it's somewhat heartening to see that there was a path for vocalizing the misdeeds, it's absolutely disgusting that the authors thought placing the weight of excommunication (in any form) on the solicited would help rid the Church of the problem more so than actually stopping the molestation itself.

As to whether this document constitutes a "smoking gun", I'll let the lawyers fight over that. But it's appalling that evidence keeps coming out that church leaders would have rather put guilt trips on molestation victims than actually deal with the priests. And here's why: priests (deviously or honestly) could go to a confessor and say, "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. I have solicited three boys in the last week. I'll never do it again." And then it's between the penetant and God - out of the Church's hands entirely until the next confession. And the cycle repeats itself. So all those invovled stuck by the canon, but I have a hard time believing they were so deprived of common sense that they couldn't see a pattern or do something about the problem.

I haven't been to mass since Christmas. And I keep finding more reasons not to go back than reasons to accept the Church into my life again.

#32 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 11:16 AM:

Have any of you actually read this document?

I have.

The Observer uses partial quotes taken out of context to create a false impression. It is bad reporting. It is dishonest reporting. If there's something "disgusting" it's the Observer's story.

#33 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 11:26 AM:

"I can understand (tho not approve) an organisation breaking the rules of an external legal system, but surely this is running a coach and horses through their own rules?"

There's a lot of "running a coach and horses through their own rules" in the Church. The name of the sin is "clericalism"--the tendency of the priesthood and the hierarchy to become a cult unto itself. It's hard on decent priests. It's really hard on the laity.

#34 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 11:30 AM:

Kellie, you're overlooking the important detail that the penance assigned does not have to be merely a set of prayers and religious observances. For someone who has never done something causing major harm to innocent persons, sure, it _usually_ is, but even relatively well-behaved kids sometimes get something more creative. For major sins involving significantly hurt victims, some form of restitution is supposed to be part of the package.

Saying that the priest hearing the confession can't take that information to the police does not mean that the priest cannot require the penitant to go to the police, as part of his penance.

And Jim Macdonald's right; judging this document on the basis of the Observer's selected excerpts and its commentary on them is not a good idea.

#35 ::: Sam Dodsworth ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 11:47 AM:

James - I'm having a look at the (translated) original document now. I'd certainly agree that the Observer are putting a sensational spin on it, but I don't see any really bad instances of taking quotes out of context. Unless (as I suspect) all the secrecy stuff is actually standard boilerplate for _all_ serious internal matters rather than a cover-up?

#36 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 11:55 AM:

The Observer uses partial quotes taken out of context to create a false impression. It is bad reporting. It is dishonest reporting. If there's something "disgusting" it's the Observer's story.

Now, James. If you're going to call the Observer "disgusting" - and you haven't yet explained exactly what's wrong with it - what word are you going to have for the priests who actually committed these sins?

However it's being reported, the fact is, Catholic priests and other clerics in the UK and elsewhere were molesting children and vulnerable adults, and getting away with it with the connivance and support of other clerics in the UK, and elsewhere. That's disgusting.

I asked you last night, and I'm asking you again: tell me what's wrong with the the Observer's story, and we can discuss that. But let's not lose sight of the real issue.

#37 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 12:10 PM:

Thanks, Reimer, for the link way back there on forms of excommunication. One fascinating thing in that article from the Catholic Encyclopedia was the statement that children under the age of puberty couldn't be excommunicated because the understanding of the nature of the grievousness of the crime is a necessary component of making it an excommunicatable offense. If that's true, prepubescents who'd been seduced could clearly have confessed, gotten contrition, not be excommunicated for not having told the Inquisition, and in fact might not have been able to start the process. While I like keeping innocents innocent, this seems a little odd to me. I'm afraid this is pouring more oil on troubled flames, though.... So far, I'm trying to base my comments on (at least excerpts from) source documents.

Cheers,
Tom

#38 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 12:19 PM:

While examples abound throughout, look specifically at page 17 of 39 in the .pdf, where you will find that the Observer posted only half of one sentence from the oath of secrecy, leaving off, without indicating in any way that there had been an omission, the part of that same sentence whereby the final outcome of the inquiry was specifically exempt from the oath of secrecy, and specifically stating that the final judgment can be published.

What is evident from this document is that the required forms and actions were not carried out by the bishops who have been involved in the recently revealed scandals. They failed of their duty, to the great detriment of all concerned.

This document requires that the bishops fall like a hammer on priests who commit the sin of solicitation, to the extent of reducing them to the lay state. That this was not done is a shame and a scandal, for which the bishops should be called to account.

#39 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 12:25 PM:

So it sounds like you (Lis, Patrick, James, possibly others) are saying that the Church (ie the community of worshippers, the theological rules, etc) are OK, but those charged with leading the community and carrying out many of the rules (the Church Hierarchy) did not in fact carry out their duties correctly.

And the Observer article is quoting some parts of some of the rules out of context in an attempt to make it look like the rules, rather than their execution, are at fault.

Is that a fair summary?

I have a question about the secrecy constraint. Who exactly is bound by it? Is the victim bound by it? Typically, if someone commits both a sin and a crime against you, you can reasonably be expected to report the crime to the secular authorities, right? And what happens in the confessional must not be revealed by the priest, but the penitent is not normally bound by such secrecy, right?

So if a priest pointed a gun at a penitent and said "give me all your money", the penitent could report that to the police, couldn't they?

Does anyone know what the rules actually are about secrecy, in particular to what extent the victim is bound to secrecy?

#40 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 12:28 PM:

- and you haven't yet explained exactly what's wrong with it -

Do I need to repost, or are you capable of scrolling upthread?

#41 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 12:53 PM:

Lis, I wasn't overlooking that. A confessor can list as penance anything he feels necessary for the magnitude of the sin - including going to the police, apologizing to the victim, etc. But whether or not the penetant actually does this is between the penetant and God. And then the penetant can go to confession and confess to not having completed his penance before, and the cycle continues. I don't have a problem with what gets assigned as penance. But have you always done every single bit of your homework? Usually you get called on that eventually with a zero or a lower grade. In confession, you don't. God gets to deal with the lapse, not the confessor or even the Church Hierarchy. It becomes a self-sustaining problem. I suppose I have to be painfully honest, though, and admit that the priests actually taking confessions would rarely be in a position to do anything about handling repeat offense priests in any helpful fashion.

Jim, the only thing in my post that was based on the Observer article was this line: "What disturbs me the most is that the document seems only to deal with solicitations made during confession." The fact that the document required the solicited to report the solicitation on fear of excommunication is not in dispute. I took that (based on my own logic and experiences, not that of the Observer or anything else) to be an example of a proposed way of curtailing the problem. Something I do indeed find "disgusting".

#42 ::: Lara Beaton ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 01:25 PM:

Yonmei writes:

However it's being reported, the fact is, Catholic priests and other clerics in the UK and elsewhere were molesting children and vulnerable adults, and getting away with it with the connivance and support of other clerics in the UK, and elsewhere. That's disgusting.

This is true, and yes, it is disgusting. However, the Observer article claims that they are doing so under direction from the Vatican. Right from the title of the article.

And that isn't what the document was about. It was about a procedure for dealing with cases of abuse through Church law. I'm sure you could find similar sorts of procedures for dealing with misconduct in other organisations that have positions of trust (i.e. the police, the FBI, etc.). Namely, the victim has to come forth and make the accusation, an investigation must be held, and everyone is to stay quiet about it during the investigation. Results may be communicated if the accused is found guilty.

The document actually requires the victim to come forth and make the accusation under penalty of excommunication. It also requires that the results of any investigations against a priest be communicated to his superiors, even when changing congregations.

I agree with James, the only disgusting thing about this article is the shoddy reporting.

#43 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 01:28 PM:

The document does not deal only with solicitations made during Confession. It deals with solicitations between a priest and any adult with whom he has a confessor/penitent relationship, or with any child whatever, or any animal.

Since only two people are likely to know of the solicitation, the criminal and the person he solicited, how exactly do you suggest that the Church find out about these matters other than by requiring the person solicited to report the crime? And what other tools does the Church have other than excommunication to encourage the solicited person to come forward?

That the person solicited may or may not have responded to the solicitation is not an element of the proof. The fact of solicitation, verbally, in writing, or by gesture, is sufficient to prove the offense.

The bishop is enjoined to investigate the matter at once, and secretly, so that the accused does not find out he is under investigation. When the investigation is complete, and crime is proveable, the accused is brought before an ecclesiastic court, where he is not informed of the names of his accusers and the witnesses against him, nor allowed to confront them, nor to question them. If the ecclesiastic court finds him guilty, then he is defrocked.

If the crime is not provable but is probable, the bishop is enjoined to remove the priest from the occasion of sin. Removing him from the occasion of sin does not mean sending a drunk to a different barroom, or a sheepfucker to a different sheep ranch (or even to a cattle ranch). It means putting him somewhere where he cannot commit the sin again even if he wants to.

Once again, this is not a manual on how to do a coverup, it's a manual on how to weed these guys out quickly and put them somewhere where they can do no further harm. Nowhere in this document is there any prohibition of contacting secular authority over secular crime.

#44 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 02:05 PM:

Entonces, Padrino, I misread it?

#45 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 02:16 PM:

And what other tools does the Church have other than excommunication to encourage the solicited person to come forward?

That, to me, is a sign of either a poor church structure or poor amounts of faith in one's own church structure. Any community should find ways to encourage people to have a desired behavior or refrain from an undesired one, short of excommunication-level punishment. It's using a sledgehammer to the head when a light push between the shoulders might be both more appropriate and more effective. I'll agree that it's hard to get people to come forward with this type of crime, but I don't see any reason at all to think that this is the only method possible for the Roman or any other church. If it was designed to encourage people to come forward immediately if not sooner, it needs to be thought through again.

If it was designed to encourage people not to come forward after that one month period, it looks to me like it'd be much more effective at achieving that. So from my perspective, it looks like either the Roman church had that as a goal, or they were doing a very poor job of achieving their real goal. Choose your level of cynicism, I guess.

If I was a faithful Roman Catholic who honestly believed excommunication was the only tool at my church's disposal in such a situation, I think I'd spend a good amount of time trying to find them more tools.

#46 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 02:28 PM:

James D Macdonald wrote: Since only two people are likely to know of the solicitation, the criminal and the person he solicited, how exactly do you suggest that the Church find out about these matters other than by requiring the person solicited to report the crime?

For starters, how about requiring the solicitor to report himself on pain of excommunication?

And what other tools does the Church have other than excommunication to encourage the solicited person to come forward?

Let's say state law decides to follow this stellar example from the Holy See. And threatens rape victims with a ticket and fine if they don't report a rape. I highly doubt anyone would be singing the law's praises.

There are three reasons why I find the whole logic of the document repulsive. First, it places yet another extreme burden on the victim. Second, it puts the focus of the crime of molestation on tracking down the victims, not the perpetrators. Finally, it also places the burden of knowledge on the victim as well (and what if Father Confessor isn't so kind as to inform the victim of his duties?). These three facts show me that the authors of the document were willing to put the rights of the priest above the rights of the victim. Again the word "disgusting" comes to mind. Unless there's another secret document (perhaps beings suppressed by the media?) that discusses how the church should handle confessed molestors without reference to what the victim has to suffer.

And, yes, it does address any confessor/penitant relationship. But children usually don't receive the sacrament of reconciliation (first confession) until the age of 6 or older. Not all parishoners in one church only go to one confessor. And some may avoid a priest entirely. Based on the language of the document (which, in all its clarity, appears to have been written by lawyers), it's hard to determine whether or not it addresses only the actual penitant/confessor relationship or just the possible penitant/confessor relationship. A priest can take anyone's confession (I think there's also a bit of canon law that indicates those who have received the sacrament can still validly confess), but he is not always everyone's confessor. And I'm having a hard time figuring out if the document addresses the issue of solicitation based on a possible relationship or an actual confessor/penitant relationship.

And I just realized that I never read the Observer article. I read the one that Teresa orginally linked to, then missed the link to the Observer article, and assumed everyone was in a tizzy about the first one.

#47 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 02:30 PM:

What do you imagine excommunication entails?

In this case it means merely that the person who has knowledge of this crime and who has not reported it to the bishop within one month can't receive communion until he or she has reported it.

This is a serious matter, and a serious relief, but I repeat, what other remedy does the Church have? Think about it. What else is there? I'm eager to hear suggestions.

#48 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 02:30 PM:

"So it sounds like you (Lis, Patrick, James, possibly others) are saying that the Church (ie the community of worshippers, the theological rules, etc) are OK, but those charged with leading the community and carrying out many of the rules (the Church Hierarchy) did not in fact carry out their duties correctly."

I'm not sure I would go so far as to say anyone is "OK" in all this. I have my own problems with Catholic culture and practice, which are not under discussion here. I do very much admire, however, the Vatican II idea of the "pilgrim Church," in which the laity are as much part of the enterprise as any of the authorities. Notably, this dispensation also obliges the laity to speak up and act when the authorities are out of line. You don't hear much about that from the guys in the red beanies.

#49 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 02:40 PM:

"What do you imagine excommunication entails?

"In this case it means merely that the person who has knowledge of this crime and who has not reported it to the bishop within one month can't receive communion until he or she has reported it."

This nicely illustrates the language gap between technical church language and common usage. For most people in this discussion, the word "excommunication" summons up images of driving the infidel away with raised crucifixes and loud cries of "Retro me!"

There's plenty in canon law that's there to prop up the privileges and powers of the princes of the Church. There's also quite a lot that's there in order to enforce fairness in ecclesiastical procedures, and the extreme gaseousness and generality of the language is to a great extent because these are internal laws written for a truly global organization, which have to make sense to local administrators in Bavaria and Bolivia, Micronesia and Mozambique.

#50 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 02:44 PM:

James, according to Church teaching and canon, refusing someone communion IS a big deal.

And the church gave themselves another tool (which they didn't use, or which they worded vaguely enough to use it in a "different" meaning). From the second page of the document:

...there is nothing to prevent superiors themselves, if by chance they have discovered [one of their] subjects delinquent in the administration of the sacrament of Penance, from being able and having the obligation of being dilligently watchful over those same persons, and, even having administered salutary penances, to admonish and correct, and, if the case demands it, to remove him from some ministry. They will also be able to transfer him to another [assignment], unless the Ordinary of the place has forbidden it because he has already accepted the denunciation and has begun the inquisition.

Ignoring the fact that this language places blame and repsonsibility on everyone else BUT the solicitor, there is some language in here that is vague enough to give the Church a tool as blunt or sharp as it wishes. "If the case demands it"..."remove him from some ministry". But we do know that the Church full advantage of the transfer rule laid down there. I haven't been able to wrap my brain around the "Inquisition" part just yet, but I'm thinking I'm going to find more of the same.

#51 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 02:58 PM:

Kellie, you're carying on like the good folks who, a short while ago, were insisting that any criticism whatsoever of Shrub, Cheney, and their conduct of the war against Iraq meant we were fans of Saddam Hussein.

Child molesters are bad people. No one actually disagrees with that proposition. Someone who has sexually molested a child, and has not made a true and sincere penance for it, is in a serious state of sin and not eligible to receive the sacraments.

And if they care, they probably know that. Even if they don't care, if they're priests, they certainly know that.

This document is about what people other than the molester should do, if they become aware of the sin that has been or is being committed. If the rules laid down in this document had been followed, we wouldn't have the current huge problem that we have today.

#52 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 03:10 PM:

I grow tired of this. What we have is special pleading by two lawyers who stand to profit handsomely from finding evidence of a Church coverup, combined with shoddy reporting.

For starters, how about requiring the solicitor to report himself on pain of excommunication?

This is already the case.

Let's say state law decides to follow this stellar example from the Holy See. And threatens rape victims with a ticket and fine if they don't report a rape. I highly doubt anyone would be singing the law's praises.

The name for that law right now is "accessory after the fact." Do you consider it admirable to fail to report a crime, allowing the criminal to continue his career and victimize other people?


First, it places yet another extreme burden on the victim.

Do you consider reporting the crime to be an extreme burden?

Second, it puts the focus of the crime of molestation on tracking down the victims, not the perpetrators.

Say what? This is nonsensical. How in the world do you find a perpetrator if there is no accusation? If there is no victim has a crime been committed at all?

Finally, it also places the burden of knowledge on the victim as well (and what if Father Confessor isn't so kind as to inform the victim of his duties?)

I can't figure out what you're getting at. The victim is supposed to know that he shouldn't be solicited by a priest? Yeah, he's supposed to know. And as soon as he asks about it, that other priest is supposed to say, "Tell the bishop about it, right now."

These three facts show me that the authors of the document were willing to put the rights of the priest above the rights of the victim.

This is nonsense. Any allegation is to be followed at once by an investigation. The accuser is only involved at the very beginning, with the initial report. Recall that before someone can be accused of a crime, it first must be demonstrated that a crime has in fact been committed. That's why the first part of any murder trial involves proving that the deceased is, in fact, dead.

...discusses how the church should handle confessed molestors without reference to what the victim has to suffer.

Where is the suffering? And without a victim, there is no crime.

And, yes, it does address any confessor/penitant relationship. But children usually don't receive the sacrament of reconciliation (first confession) until the age of 6 or older.

Which is why the document denounces any solicitation whatever with children of either sex, without regard to confessor/penitent relation ship. (Contact with adults who do not have a confessor/penitent relationship are covered under other laws; they do not fall under solicitation.)

...it's hard to determine whether or not it addresses only the actual penitant/confessor relationship or just the possible penitant/confessor relationship.

The confessor/penitent relationship is defined very broadly. To avoid it, the priest would have to go to another parish where he is unknown, wearing civilian clothes, and lie about his job. And he still wouldn't skate out of condemnation -- he'd just not be investigated for solicitation.

Would you prefer that victims not come forward to denounce crimes? Would you prefer that bishops not investigate accusations?


#53 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 03:15 PM:

Lis, where have I ever mentioned that defenders of the Church's actions or even this document were fans of child molestors? I've only provided my reaction to a document that I feel is repugnant and given my reasons for that reaction.

And this document is titled "On the Manner of Proceeding in Cases of Solicitation." One would think that include the solicitor, the solicited, and those who have to deal with the cases. Or solely the latter party.

Also, the rules, as they were laid down, were followed. Just with a spirit of loose interpretation.

#54 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 03:16 PM:

But we do know that the Church full advantage of the transfer rule laid down there.

The transfer rule involves "religious," that is to say the members of various orders not under the Ordinary's control. Thus, if a Franciscan is accused, this part allows the bishop to keep that person from being transferred out of the diocese until the investigation and trial are completed.

There is no language whatever that supports transferring priests from parish to parish within a diocese, or between dioceses, to avoid prosecution for a crime.

Further -- being removed from some ministries. Do you support leaving a priest who has been assigned to a youth group, who has been accused of molestation, with that youth group? Or would you support giving him a new assignment away from the occassion of sin until after the investigation is complete?

#55 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 03:37 PM:

Wow, James. We seem to have misunderstood each other on so many levels as to be comical.

I grow tired of this. What we have is special pleading by two lawyers who stand to profit handsomely from finding evidence of a Church coverup, combined with shoddy reporting.

Sorry, but I'm not talking about the reporting or the "smoking gun". I'm talking about the document itself. And my own reactions to it, and my own opinions on this whole situation. If that means I've wandered off topic for this commenting section, I apologize.

Do you consider reporting the crime to be an extreme burden?

The extreme burden in question is the threat of excommunication.

Say what? This is nonsensical. How in the world do you find a perpetrator if there is no accusation? If there is no victim has a crime been committed at all?

Confession. The document itself provides a clause about what superiors can do if priests are delinquent in administering Penance for molestors.

I can't figure out what you're getting at. The victim is supposed to know that he shouldn't be solicited by a priest? Yeah, he's supposed to know. And as soon as he asks about it, that other priest is supposed to say, "Tell the bishop about it, right now."

The burden of knowledge is that the victim must know, as a solicited person, that he must report said solicitation within a month (of knowing the rule, if not the actual solicitation) or be excommunicated. Funny, too, that the document with this rule was confidential, never to be seen by lay people, yet the lay people are expected to act in accordance with it.

Where is the suffering?

I'm very much hoping I misunderstood you here and that you're not trying to tell me that molestation victims don't suffer.

Which is why the document denounces any solicitation whatever with children of either sex, without regard to confessor/penitent relation ship.

Could you provide a page reference?

Would you prefer that victims not come forward to denounce crimes? Would you prefer that bishops not investigate accusations?

Actually, I would have preferred that the bishops had used the tools to the fullest extent as laid out in this document so that way the victims would not have had to come forward in order to reveal the problem.

#56 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 03:38 PM:

Oops. Botched the italicizing and thus my post may be unreadable. Apologies.

#57 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 03:41 PM:

Further -- being removed from some ministries. Do you support leaving a priest who has been assigned to a youth group, who has been accused of molestation, with that youth group? Or would you support giving him a new assignment away from the occassion of sin until after the investigation is complete?

No. Do you? But my problem with the word "some" was that it implied a priest could be removed from youth ministry and be put in charge another minitstry where he'd still have access (although not as much) to children. I would rather they had used the word "all" instead of "some".

#58 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 04:03 PM:

Which is why the document denounces any solicitation whatever with children of either sex, without regard to confessor/penitent relation ship.

Could you provide a page reference?

Page 16 of 39 in the .pdf, paragraph 73.

"To have the worst crime, for the penal effects, one must do the equivalent of the following: any obscene, external act, gravely sinful, perpetrated in any way by a cleric or attempted by him, with youths of either sex, or with brute animals (bestiality)."


You said: Again the word "disgusting" comes to mind. Unless there's another secret document (perhaps beings suppressed by the media?) that discusses how the church should handle confessed molestors without reference to what the victim has to suffer.

I took your use of the word "suffer" to mean your repeated objection to the requirement that the victim report the crime. I repeat, where is the suffering? Reporting the crime is the road to the end of suffering, both for that victim and other future victims.

Once again, and I think, for the final time: the bishops who have been named in the recent scandals did not follow the letter or the spirit of the guidance they had in hand.

#59 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 04:19 PM:

"Suffer" as in, on top of everything else a molestation victim has to go through, they now have to feel at fault (and risk abandonment - however "minute" - from the very church that harbors - knowingly or not - the perpetrator) if they can't produce the strength to report the crime.

One thing I just want to clear up, because my eyes popped when I read it and I somehow missed it before.

Let's say state law decides to follow this stellar example from the Holy See. And threatens rape victims with a ticket and fine if they don't report a rape. I highly doubt anyone would be singing the law's praises.

The name for that law right now is "accessory after the fact." Do you consider it admirable to fail to report a crime, allowing the criminal to continue his career and victimize other people?

Is it really true that a rape victim can be charged with accessory after the fact if she chooses not to report her rape? And it has nothing to do with admiration. It has to do with the reality of a rape or molestation victim often wanting to put the experience behind them and get on with life. For some, that means pretending it didn't happen or not wanting to "raise a ruckus" by reporting it. Admirable? No. Understandable? Yes. Victims need healing as soon as they can get it. Telling a victim "Hey, you better report this or you'll be excommunicated" is about as effective as telling a victim "Guess what? As a victim of molestation you're {insert whatever the stat is here} times more likely to molest a child yourself!"

#60 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 04:20 PM:

Good grief, I did it again. The chunk "The name for that law" was originally written by James, not myself.

#61 ::: Reimer Behrends ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 04:28 PM:
Kellie wrote: The burden of knowledge is that the victim must know, as a solicited person, that he must report said solicitation within a month (of knowing the rule, if not the actual solicitation) or be excommunicated. Funny, too, that the document with this rule was confidential, never to be seen by lay people, yet the lay people are expected to act in accordance with it.

As I said above, this is false. Only once the victim has been informed (or otherwise obtained knowledge) that he or she has to denounce the culprit does the victim have to take action. The victim is not excommunicated for failing to denounce the culprit as long as he or she is ignorant of that duty.

And about the rule being secret and never to be seen by lay people, please see where I linked above to the (publicly available) Catholic Encyclopedia, where the entire procedure is spelled out and has been at least since the beginning of the 20th century.

#62 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 04:41 PM:

I sit corrected, having only considered the document itself. Apologies for flooding the comments and for flinging my head up against several unsuspecting people. I obviously need to think on my faith for a while and settle some lingering issues about what it means to me to be Catholic.

#63 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 04:41 PM:

If you robbed the First National Bank, and I know that you robbed the First National Bank, and I fail to report you, I'm an accessory after the fact.

From secular law: (A) No person, knowing that a felony has been or is being committed, shall knowingly fail to report such information to law enforcement authorities.

Rape is a felony.


Look, why don't you just read the document? All your questions would be answered. If the person who was solicited is unable to make the accusation, any of the faithful who knows of the crime is obliged to denounce it. See pages 4 of 39 and 5 of 39, especially paragraph 19.

#64 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 04:46 PM:

I'd be interested to see any case law that involves applying this to a rape.

And I kept stopping a couple pages into the document, due to the above noted issues as stated in my apology. Also in my blog.

#65 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 05:33 PM:

As far as I can see, that document sets up a situation where a priest with a habit of "solicitation" as the document keeps referring to it, providing that he consistently picks on vulnerable people and especially on people who have shown that they don't like him very much, or people who have a "bad reputation" in the community (an unmarried mother, for example - or a teenager who people think might be gay) - can not only get away with it, time after time, he can actually have all witnesses under oath not to tell that he was ever accused, and he can also have all records that he was ever accused destroyed.

Page 5, paragraph 23, dealing with the person making the denunciation of the soliciting priest:
"His signature is then to be exacted [from him], or, if he does not know how to write, or cannot, the sign of the cross. And with him still being present, there should be added the signature of the person receiving the testimony, and if he is present (Cfr. n. 9), of the notary. And before he is dismissed, there should be presented to him, as above, an oath of observing the secret, threatening him, if there is a need, with an excommunication reserved to the Ordinary or to the Holy See (Cfr. n. 13)."

Now, James and other people have said that this doesn't mean that the victim couldn't denounce the priest to the civil authorities. But I noted nowhere any injunction on the judge to explain to the victim "This is just canon law: after we're done, we'll help you take him to civil law."

page 13, para 63, dealing with really serious instances:
"To the greatest penalty of degredation, there can be added for a religious who is accused the reduction to the status of a lay-brother. This is only then imposed when, having weighed everything, it evidently appears that the accused, immersed in the depths of malice in the abuse of his sacred ministry, combined with the grave scandal that is harmful to the faithful and their souls, exists to such a degree of foolhardiness and habit, so that there is no hope, humanly speaking, or almost no hope, of his amendment that is evident any more."

And yet, though this penalty is exacted from priests who have repeatedly been found guilty of "solicitation" of the most vulnerable, including children - there's no suggestion in this document that the priest should at any point be turned over to civil law.

para 65 includes "additional penalties", which include (d) where for several reasons, including the prevention of scandal, the priest accused shall be transferred somewhere else.

Yeah.

So what I want to know is, not so much "Why didn't they follow procedure as described in this document?" but "How many times has procedure as described in this document been followed, the molesting priest found innocent, all records destroyed, everyone involved - including the victim - told that "on pain of excommunication" they're not to talk about it. The victim especially, who's been judged on their life-style, morals, and "opinion among the people", plus whether they ever showed any enmity towards the priest.

I'm at a loss. The only comparable case I can think of where one person's identity in the courtroom is protected by law is in a rape case - but it's the witness was raped whose identity is protected by law, not the rapist on trial.

No, there is another comparison. When the soldiers who fired on the crowd on Bloody Sunday, 30 January 1972, came before the tribunal that was investigating their actions on that day, they asked and I think were granted permission to conceal their identitities from the public: but even then members of the public and media could hear the evidence being delivered, they just weren't allowed to see the witness while this is done.

Yet I'm getting feedback from several of you that says this degree of screening available to the accused described in this document is nothing unusual. Maybe in an American court.

I note the single instance James points out where the Observer cut off a quote. I agree, that was poorly done: I think the point where the victim has to promise not to talk about it to anyone is a much more telling quote.

Reaction from another friend to the section headed "Worst Crime": 'Also, incidentally, "the worst crime" is described as being one carried out by a priest "with a person of his own sex". Yeah. Because abusing women and girls makes baby Jesus laugh.'

#66 ::: marek ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 06:17 PM:

Patrick wrote (quite a while back)

What I think Jim is suggesting was that the Observer's commentary was tinged with more than a bit of nonsense about what Catholics think and how the church works, which is pretty commonly the case in English journalism on this subject. Even those of us who think the church authorities deserve harsh criticism frequently wince at the hamhandedness and ignorance of the British press, including the BBC, on these subjects.

I am against sweeping condemnation of the catholic church. But I am equally against sweeping condemnation of the British media.

It may well be true that there is generally greater scepticism about religions in the British media, but that would be an accurate reflection of the greater scepticism in British society. Religious observance (in the sense of church or equivalent attendance) is much lower in the UK than the US - fewer than five million a week across all denominations. A Pew Research study showed that 57% of respondents in the US thought religion important compared with 33% in the UK.

My impression is that the quality of analysis is no better in the US media, but, not at all surprisingly, the quality of respect is much higher.

But behind that, the point about ignorance may not be wholly unreasonable. In her study of the Church of England, Monica Furlong wrote:

Children who do not come from churchgoing homes - as I did not - now grow up largely ignorant of Christian ideas in a way unimaginable half a century ago. [...] The comments about religion by journalists in the press and on television [...] suggest that even the basic Christian ideas are no longer understood by university-educated people, still less by others. Indeed even churchgoers can reveal an ignorance of the main elements of Christian belief.
#67 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 06:20 PM:

I note the single instance James points out where the Observer cut off a quote.

How many more do you want?


=======


The Observer's headline: "Vatican told bishops to cover up sex abuse"

This is a lie.

The Observer's lede: "The Vatican instructed Catholic bishops around the world to cover up cases of sexual abuse or risk being thrown out of the Church."

This is a lie.

=======

Yeah. Because abusing women and girls makes baby Jesus laugh.

You, personally, Yonmei, are a bigot. Your friend is a bigot. I shall have nothing more to do with you.

#68 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 06:26 PM:

First off, that piece of canon law is so weirdly specific that I wonder whether it was written to deal with some particular situation.

Does anyone know whether it was ever enforced?

Secondly, I've never heard of a law punishing victims who fail to make an accusation. It's a common complaint that many victims of embezzlement and fraud don't bring suit--partly because it's so embarrassing to have been fooled and partly because companies fear that they'll lose respect/investment if it's known that they've been defrauded. Still, no laws requiring disclosure that I've heard of, though maybe there's something about huge losses to publicly traded companies.

As for what might have been a better policy for the Catholic Church--making it clear that people who make accusations must *not* be punished by their communities unless there's very clear evidence that the accusation is false would have been a start. From what I can gather, one of the reasons people don't accuse leaders of any sort is a rational fear that their families and friends will ostracize them or worse.

Publicizing that priests are as subject to temptation as anyone else would have been a good idea, too.

Even publicizing the rule (I'd never heard of that rule before--has anyone else here?) requiring a speedy accusation would have been better than never mentioning that priests might be soliciting the people around them.

#69 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 09:04 PM:

James wrote I repeat, where is the suffering? Reporting the crime is the road to the end of suffering, both for that victim and other future victims.

Unfortunately, that is often not the case when the crime is rape or sexual abuse. Women and girls have been, and in many places still are, afraid of reporting the rape because they will be punished for having had sex, even though it was against their will; or because they know that reporting it will ruin their reputations, not that of the person who attacked them. Children and teens who reported having been molested by priests were scorned and doubted, including by their own parents.

Adding the threat of excommunication if the victim doesn't report the crime won't remove those problems. It just adds to the victim's suffering.

#70 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 09:11 PM:

page 13, para 63, dealing with really serious instances:
"To the greatest penalty of degredation, there can be added for a religious who is accused the reduction to the status of a lay-brother. This is only then imposed when, having weighed everything, it evidently appears that the accused, immersed in the depths of malice in the abuse of his sacred ministry, combined with the grave scandal that is harmful to the faithful and their souls, exists to such a degree of foolhardiness and habit, so that there is no hope, humanly speaking, or almost no hope, of his amendment that is evident any more."

Would someone care to explain "the grave scandal that is harmful to the faithful and their souls"? I have my own issues that make me sceptical of any Church, but I have been aware of them and have tried to allow for them during a year's stomach-turning revelations in the city I chose to live in; I recall many instances quoted in which the worry about "scandal" was the principle that guided the coverups.

One worry mentioned far less frequently is the decreasing number of people willing to put up with [what they understand of] the life of a priest; what I've read suggests that the supply of priests is waning even faster than the demand of parishes. How often might a cover-shuffle have been motivated by uncertainty about finding a replacement? This would not be a mitigation, but an indication of how many influences might suggest to a bishop that a change of scenery was all that was necessary -- despite the medical advice Law (e.g.) had paid for.

#71 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 09:11 PM:

Jim, Yonmei has backed down on several points. She's been interactive and not altogether unreasonable. She offered the remark that set you off as a quote from someone else. Granted, that remark was phrased in a maximally inflammatory way, which is not good; but I, too, dislike the idea that the sin is significantly worse if the victim is male. The sexual misconduct is distinctly secondary to the breach of trust and misuse of the sacrament. The church is inevitably going to think worse of homosexual offenses than heterosexual ones, but that's practically a technicality compared to the rest of what's going on.

Yonmei, if you don't mind indulging my curiosity, what denomination was your friend raised in? I could hazard a guess, but I'd rather ask you.

Marek, not all denominations get quite this style of skepticism.

British anti-Catholicism is real, and it's currently active. Feed isis nimrod babylon pope into Google and see how much nastiness turns up. This pathological body of interconnected libels is to modern Catholicism what The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion is to Judaism, and it's got "MANUFACTURED IN BRITAIN" stamped on its bottom.

Nancy, the intricacy and specificity of canon law rivals that of any other body of religious law.

Denying someone communion is not a terribly harsh punishment as the world reckons harsh. I know how hard it can be to speak out. Sexual solicitation in the confessional is an extremely serious offense -- again, a profound breach of trust -- but only two people know what happened in that confessional, and for one of them to not speak out is to let the other continue.

There's another thing. I'm going to have to step carefully here. You know I'm a longtime reader of saints' lives, yes? Contained in them are dozens of episodes--ranging from folkloric tales to precisely detailed accounts--of false accusations of sexual misconduct. I know it's hard to talk about false accusations when so many real ones have been ignored, but it happens. Ecclesiastics have always been targets for free-floating sexual fantasies. (For instance, there's a huge body of pornography about them.)

The only alternative to direct accusation by the victim is trial by hearsay. Our own court system wouldn't put up with that.

Vicki, Jim has never defended abusers. They make him furious. And what you're describing holds true for boys as well as girls.

#72 ::: Lara Beaton ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 11:09 PM:

Yonmei writes:
And yet, though this penalty is exacted from priests who have repeatedly been found guilty of "solicitation" of the most vulnerable, including children - there's no suggestion in this document that the priest should at any point be turned over to civil law.

There's nothing to say that they shouldn't, either. Which is what the Observer reporter implies in the article. This document is about how they deal with it inside the Chruch itself and doesn't deal with outside agencies at all.

The only comparable case I can think of where one person's identity in the courtroom is protected by law is in a rape case - but it's the witness was raped whose identity is protected by law, not the rapist on trial.

As someone else has stated before, the most obvious comparison is to grand jury proceedings. Everyone's identity is protected from the accused to the witnesses. If there is sufficient evidence to support an accusation, then that is when it is brought forward and made public. I believe that a similar process is in place in most military organisations for people who are court-martialled.


I realise that this is a hot-button topic for you, and rightfully so. But I suggest you read the document objectively and compare it to just about any other piece of rape legislation of the same period. It's not as bad as some, and better than others. And that's pretty much it.

Consider this: the document was written in 1962. What were the civil rape laws like at that time? If memory serves, the victim's sexual history could be brought forth as evidence for the defence, but the accused sexual history could not be. Many countries/states/provinces used the phrase "of previously chaste character" as a condition for determining whether or not a rape occurred. In other words, if the woman slept around, she could not have been raped, in the legal sense of the term. It's only been in the last 20 years or so that there has been any kind of change for those laws.

#73 ::: Reimer Behrends ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 11:27 PM:
CHip wrote: Would someone care to explain "the grave scandal that is harmful to the faithful and their souls"? I have my own issues that make me sceptical of any Church, but I have been aware of them and have tried to allow for them during a year's stomach-turning revelations in the city I chose to live in; I recall many instances quoted in which the worry about "scandal" was the principle that guided the coverups.

The sin of "scandal" is a term with a specific meaning, namely a word or action evil in itself, which occasions another's spiritual ruin. This is even more evident when you read the Latin original ("gravi cum scandalo") and check your Latin dictionary to find that "scandalum" = "an inducement to sin, a temptation, cause of offence" (Lewis & Short).

Traduttore, tradittore.

#74 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 04:37 AM:

James D. Macdonald wrote: You, personally, Yonmei, are a bigot. Your friend is a bigot. I shall have nothing more to do with you.

The sentence to which this is response was blasphemy, not bigotry: and furthermore it is a blasphemous reaction to the bigoted notion expressed in a section in the document which we are discussing that it is in some respect worse for a man or a boy to be "solicited" by a priest than it is a woman or a girl. I have no respect for that kind of homophobic misogynistic bigotry. Just as it's appropriate to yell "Fuck!" when you discover that you have been burgled and your laptop has been stolen, so it is appropriate to commit blasphemy on reading the opinion that it matters less to have women and girls be "solicited" by a priest. Or so I think.

#75 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 04:57 AM:

PS (to James) - Yes, I agree: the Observer's headline and lede were inflammatory and skewed. Headlines/ledes tend to be. The rest of the article, however, in the space available, quoted a number of different responses to the document, provided a link to a English translation, and closed on a quote from the most balanced response.

PS (to Teresa) I don't know for sure, but I can hazard a safe guess that it was Church of England. If you're really interested, I can ask her.

As someone else has stated before, the most obvious comparison is to grand jury proceedings. Everyone's identity is protected from the accused to the witnesses. If there is sufficient evidence to support an accusation, then that is when it is brought forward and made public.

Mmmmm.... but it seems very clear from the document that there is at no point any thought of making the accused's identity public. Not even if the accused is found guilty and condemned. That was my question - would you expect this kind of secrecy from a court trial?

Lara Beaton - Yes, this is no better and no worse than any rapist or victim could expect to get in 1962 in my country or in yours. That point is well made: and even these days, in the UK, not all police stations have rape suites or can even necessarily guarantee that a female witness coming in to report rape will be interviewed by a female police officer: and the rule that a witness's past sex life can't be brought up in court as "evidence" that s/he wasn't raped is evaded as often as it is honoured. We have no right to assume a position of moral superiority over this: it merely demonstrates that [what I think of when I say the] Catholic Church* is no better and no worse than any other male-dominated organisation.

*(Please note, before anyone gets mad at me again: James and I never did have that discussion explaining what he means when he says "Church" and what I mean when I say "Church". What I mean when I say "Church" is an organisation (or, non-capped, a building) - and as James and I haven't had that discussion, I have no idea how I can otherwise refer to that organisation without further offending him and other Catholics, which is not my intention.)

#76 ::: Caroline Yeldham ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 05:38 AM:

Well, maybe I'm so immersed in it that I haven't noticed virulent anti-Catholicism in Britain, but I really haven't in mainstream British thought. I thought most of our bigots were currently much more interested in either anti-Muslim or straightforward racism. Tessa, are you sure this stuff isn't coming from Northern Ireland? What comes out of that situation doesn't reflect in either language or attitude of most of the rest of us.

The only reporting which may have tipped over recently related to some of the people who left the Anglican church for the Catholic church over ordination of women. There were certainly raised eyebrows over the acceptance of married priests! The worst coverage was reserved for John Selwyn Gummer, however (a former Conservative minister), who remained a member of Synod for the vote and switched immediately the vote went against him.

I would agree with Marek, that scepticism in Britain is directed towards all religions, including, or perhaps even especially directed towards Anglicanism. Look at the coverage of John Major when he evoked a sense of England involving spinsters cycling to church, warm beer and cricket - it confirmed him and the church as completely out of touch.

I think there is a sense in Britain that religion is a personal choice, and allowing clerics to interfere is dangerous and out of date - even the bishops sitting in the House of Lords. Extremist muslim clerics and these scandals from the catholic church (the film the Magdalene Sisters is going round cinemas at the moment) are reinforcing these views.

The Observer may be distorting the Vatican statement (so what else is new in news reporting). However, nobody is disputing that the Vatican ordered that crimes should be dealt with primarily by internal church processes and kept quiet for the sake of the church.

It also occurs to me that the same approach was taken with regard to adult mutual consensual relationships between priests and women. I read a few years ago that priests working under the Soviet system who married (at least partially to protect their ministry - since celibate men were suspect) were not allowed to continue their ministry.

But then, I was taught (as part of a degree in medieval history) that one reason the medieval catholic church imposed celibacy on priests was because of alienation of church property to the children of priests, and particularly abbots. But perhaps that was propaganda too.

#77 ::: Larry Lurex ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 05:47 AM:

I don't understand this thing about anti-Catholic bias in England. More Catholics live in England than in Ireland. I know that Cherie Blair and Camilla Parker-Bowles have come in for some comment because of their religion but usually there is no comment or (as far as I'm aware) discrimination on religious lines in everyday life. Newspapers are of course, a different matter, and some very strange people write for them. Perhaps it is just the Observer the writer had in mind?

#78 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 07:46 AM:

Perhaps it is just the Observer the writer had in mind?

Perhaps. But see this article for an example of what the Guardian, which is the weekday sister paper to the Observer, thinks about anti-Catholic sentiments.

#79 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 08:38 AM:

Teresa, a friend who's studied canon law (she was in a seminary, but was the only one in the canon law class who wasn't studying to be a priest) told me that canon law fits into one volume. No doubt a long, boring volume in fine print, but not humanly unmanagable. For all I'd known till she told me, canon law could have been as voluminous as federal law. (I hope she shows up in this discussion.)

If canon law fits into one volume and can be adequately covered for priests in three semesters, I don't think it begins to rival the Talmud.

Lara, while I'm pointing out that organizations are different from each other, I'll note that the Catholic church is better than at least one other male-dominated organization--it doesn't execute women for adultery if they've been raped. It's a low standard, but there's a difference between very bad and even worse.

Back to general discussion:

I don't see how an unpublicized law of the sort we're talking about could possibly function as anything but a gotcha for someone who tried to do the right thing by reporting a priest, but who was past the rather short deadline.

I don't think the law is any sort of a smoking gun--I'll assume that at least some Catholic clergy knew it, but it doesn't seem to have been a player in this mess. By the way, it only covers solicitation in regards to sacraments, so it doesn't cover a lot of abuse. I don't *think* it would cover the case of a priest who threatened his victim with hell for not keeping quiet about abuse.

Here's an aspect where I think the Catholic church is pretty much like everyone else: It doesn't seem to publish or teach canon law for the laity (Canon law for dummies?) in the same way that governments don't seem to knock themselves out to make it easy for people to know the laws they're supposed to be living under.

About that Guardian article: If the law is revised so that Catholics and spouses of Catholics can be in the line of succession, would it be retroactive?

#80 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 08:52 AM:

James, according to Church teaching and canon, refusing someone communion IS a big deal.

Again, no one is being refused communion. The person is being asked to refrain from taking communion until they have carried out their duty.

========

Nowhere in the massive Uniform Code of Military Justice is there a requirement to inform civil authority of a given crime, or to hand over a given person to civil authorities. It is not mentioned at all; neither required nor forbidden.

#81 ::: Caroline Yeldham ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 08:52 AM:

Just thought I'd mention that in today's Guardian they have a round up on the world's press (a regular item). Today it includes comments from the Irish Examiner (Cork, Eire and El Mundo (Spain) on the Vatican paper. Both are highly critical of the paper. To quote from El Mundo (in the Guardian's translation) "It seems the threat of being exiled from the church led many bishops to obey the Pope and to cover up any possible cases of abuse that came to their attention."

#82 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 09:36 AM:

Which is really astounding, since the "threat [to bishops] of being exiled from the church" doesn't appear in the document. Publication of the results is specifically excluded from the oath of secrecy. Indeed, if a priest were to be defrocked it's hard to see how that could be kept secret.

#83 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 09:39 AM:

Nancy, you seem to having some difficulty noticing and applying the fact that, in order for the reporting requirement and the sanction for non-reporting to come into effect, the person who ought to do the reporting has to _know about it_. If they don't know about it, they're not subject to the penalty for not doing it.

They must also be _able_ to report it, in order to be affected by the rule. The point that many rape victims may be psychologically unable to report the crime is absolutely true. They wouldn't be subject to the sanction of excommunication, either.

Now, in 1962, did those who wrote and approved this document fully understand the psychological obstacles that might confront rape victims? Um, probably about as well as any other authorities (still almost entirely male almost everywhere) did. Which is to say, not so much, but they were trying to do the right thing--and if the document had been followed rather than ignored, the behavior of the bishops would have been much, much better than it actually has been.

#84 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 09:45 AM:

Lis, my apologies--I missed that when I posted.

Ok, the law isn't as bad as I thought--but if it isn't publicized (and it looks as though it wasn't), it's utterly pointless.

I wonder whether the Guardian article will lead to more priests getting accused.

#85 ::: Jane Yolen ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 10:08 AM:

Here's what I am missing in this discussion--that a priest who has abused a minor (sometimes QUITE minor) child, who has power of authority both as an adult and as a priest/power figure is somehow held less responsible than the child. IE--the reporting has to be done within a month by the victim.

Now it has been shown again and again that a child--warned by said father figure/power figure--not to say a word ("This is our secret."No one will believe you." The usual warnings.) It may be years before the child understands what has happened to him/her. Who to report the abuse to? Certainly not another priest. How does a child distinguish the Good Priest from the Abusing Priest? Tell a parent? What about the "secret" warning. A policeman? Another power figure in uniform?

Nowadays, perhaps, a child might be more prepared to deal with this. But back when that paper was promulgated? I think not.

And Jim--if you think this upsets me, who is Jewish and Quaker, it upsets David even more. And he was raised Catholic of an Irish Catholic mother who was in the lay order of Mary. So I am speaking for both of us here, not being anti-Catholic by any means, but being anti-clerical to some extent. And certainly anti-bishop/cardinal if we are speaking about the Boston Law and others and their priestly shell game.

Jim, T, I know you both hate what has happened, but are trying to explain what is exactly in the found letter. I am looking at what the letter does NOT deal with. And it is that 1 mionth reporting time that has really gotten my goat.

Jane

Jane

#86 ::: Sam Dodsworth ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 10:22 AM:

James, I think there's a point of ambiguity in the translated document. Specifically:

...excepting those matters at the end... which can be legitimately published.

I've been reading that as: "you can only talk about the proceedings once they're over, and even then you can only release information that has been approved". Your reading, which is also supported by the text, is "the results of the proceedings may legitimately be published". Presumably this is clearer in the original Latin, if anyone's seen it?

(In defense of my reading, I'll add that this whole scandal seems to be the result of the first interpretation and not the second.)

#87 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 10:27 AM:

Jane --

One month -- once the victim is aware of the obligation to report it, and if the victim is ABLE to report it. This not an obligation on small children to do things they can't do, don't know how to do, don't know they're supposed to do.

It's not even an obligation on adults to do things they can't do, don't know how to do, don't know they're supposed to do.

And the reason the victim has to report it is because, if the perpetrator were an upstanding, moral person who lived up to his obligations, the problem wouldn't exist. If the perpetrator is going to be stopped, there is _no_ _alternative_ to those victims who ARE able to report the crime, doing so.

#88 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 10:49 AM:

Jane, the bishop needs to find out as quickly as possible that this transgression is going on, so he can deal with it as quickly as possible. If the victim is unwilling or unable to make the report, anyone who knows about it is required to make the report.

The document anticipates that a considerable period of time may have elapsed before the report is made. The priest may even be already dead. Yet there is no statute of limitations that the accused can hide behind.

I'm at a loss to figure out what various people mean when they say that the abuser is held less responsible than the victim. If we were to pass a law that said "All criminals must turn themselves in within 24 hours of their crime," would that have any effect?

As I look around at press reports of this document, one thing that strikes me is that the name Daniel Shea, who is a lawyer for some abuse victims, keeps having his name pop up, right beside an abbreviated version of the oath of secrecy. That version is full of elipses, and those elipses are always in the same places. I suspect that the abbreviated version is from Mr. Shea's press release. What has been removed is the specific exclusion from the oath of secrecy of the results of the bishop's inquiry, which can be published. Also missing in the abbreviated version is who exactly the information is supposed to be secret from. The answer is: it's supposed to be secret from those who have no legitimate interest in the matter. I, personally, would count civil law enforcement as people who have a legitimate interest. There is nothing in the oath that forbids the bishop from opening his files to the DA, or from going directly to the DA on his own.

That the bishops didn't share their information with civil authority, and that they didn't immediately defrock these confessed and proved abusers, is a shame and a scandal. Had any of the bishops involved called me on the phone, I'd have told them the same. They were wrong, and to a man should resign their positions, and (once they get out of the slammer) find caves in the woods, and become hermits for the rest of their natural lives to spend their days in contemplation and remorse for their sins.

#89 ::: Sam Dodsworth ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 11:03 AM:

Isn't the real point about this "obliged to report the crime under threat of excommunication" business that nobody seems to have been aware of the obligation until this document came to light?

(It also occurs to me that threats of excommunication make more sense in the context of priests seducing lonely men and/or women rather than priests raping children, all of which are situations covered by this procedure. Not that I'm particularly impressed by the whole idea of threats to the presumably-wronged party in the first place.)

#90 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 11:08 AM:

I think James's points have all been very good. For anyone interested, there's more here from John Allen at the Nat'l Catholic Reporter:

As the story was unfolding, I received a couple of comments from church officials here and in the United States along the lines of, 93thank you for setting the record straight.94 They were reacting to the fact that early coverage was overwhelmingly negative. Church spokespersons, who knew the document was no 93smoking gun,94 were frustrated that they couldn92t get that message across.

If my reporting helped restore some perspective, I92m glad. But I don92t think church officials should take any comfort from the pattern this story revealed.

I suspect that the Crimen Sollicitationis episode may signal a new season for how the Catholic Church is covered by the American press. Just as Watergate changed the way the Americans perceived the government, the sexual abuse crisis may have reconfigured attitudes towards the church. All sorts of conspiracy theories and suggestions of corruption that once would have been dismissed by the mainstream press may now be given attention, and swallowed much more easily by the public. It will be increasingly difficult for church spokespersons to refute even obviously bogus stories, not because the spokespersons are wrong, but because few people are disposed to believe them.

#91 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 11:09 AM:

Larry said: I don't understand this thing about anti-Catholic bias in England. More Catholics live in England than in Ireland.

If population numbers alone are evidence of lack of bias, then there's no racism in the American South, either.

#92 ::: Caroline Yeldham ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 11:20 AM:

Lis, (taking care to get it right this time!)

I can't agree to there being no alternative to the victims reporting the crime. These are people working within a particular social construct which supported them and gave them authority, which I think we all agree makes their crimes worse. Many were repeat offenders.

Firstly, the Catholic church has a hierarchy, which posts priests round the world, away from their families and the individuals within that hierarchy have a duty to supervise and care for the people below them. This is important to them - look what happened to the theologians who promulgated liberation theology. We might accept this didn't work on the first occasion - but many of the priests were repeat offenders, who should have been very closely supervised, as well as protected from the 'occasion' of sin.

Secondly, confession is a key element in this (I know I keep going on about this, but it seems to me this confrontation with their lives must be crucial, presuming the offenders felt guilt at their behaviour) - catholics are taught they have to search their souls and memories for sins, sincerely repent and carry out the penance set or they cannot be absolved. Either the priests were lying (by omission) or the confessors regarded their duty to the Church (defined either way) as more important than the duty to the abused. At some point in these cases their confessors would have come to know they were lying.

Did the Vatican know? If it didn't know there was a problem, which was assumed before this document came to light, why was this document written?

On the Guardian article about members of the royal family marrying catholics; this was part of a series about modernising our illogical constitution, with particular emphasis on advocating republicanism. I'm not defending this specific law, but it is a remnant of much wider provisions against catholics taking part in public life, all the rest of which have been repealed long ago. This bit remains, as I understand it, because the next generation would be raised as catholics, and it would be a bit awkward having a catholic as Head of the Anglican church (for them as much as anyone else, really). BTW the monarch still uses a catholic title - 'Defender of the Faith' - given to Henry VIII for 'writing' a book defending the sacraments against Luther.

Caroline

#93 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 11:34 AM:

Lis,

I've never heard of any other law punishing victims for failing to report a crime.

I think the world has shown a good instinct in this. It's generally hard and risky to report a crime, especially if the crime has been committed by someone of higher status than oneself, and adding to the perceived risk of reporting means that more crimes are likely to go unreported. Even if the law is carefully written, a lot of people are afraid of authorities and will wonder whether there's something they've missed which will lead to punishment.

I agree that crimes which take place in secrecy are a serious matter, but there are other and better ways to deal with the problem, such as making it clear that accusations will be taken seriously (not automatically believed) and discouraging informal punishment of accusers.

#94 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 11:55 AM:

This is by no means a new problem, and the Church didn't suddenly notice that priests were seducing women and buggering sheep in 1962. See, for example, The Friar in the Well (Child #276)

Essentially the same information is printed in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1908 edition is on line) as Reimer pointed out above. Most of the document assumes that the priest is having a mutually consenusal relationship with an adult woman. One paragraph touches on homosexual relationships, one more touches on children and animals. Rape isn't mentioned at all. What's contemplated is the solicitation -- the priest making an offer. Whether the offer is accepted isn't to be pursued.

#95 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 12:04 PM:

I've never heard of any other law punishing victims for failing to report a crime.

This document, generally speaking, doesn't consider the woman to be a victim. It considers her to be a witness. While, as I have demonstrated above, there are laws on the books that do make it a misdemeanor for a victim to fail to report a felony, I suspect that they are seldom enforced. There are gobs of laws that make it illegal for a witness to conceal knowledge of a crime, and those are enforced.

#96 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 12:15 PM:

Nancy, it is in fact a crime not to report a felony. Specifically in matters of sexual abuse, prosecutors do sometimes compel testimony from reluctant victims. This is not new, weird, or peculiar to the Catholic Church.

Caroline, this document _was_ an attempt to deal with the problem. If its provisions had been followed--all of them, not just ones you're attacking distorted versions of--we'd be in a very different place with this issue. This despite the fact that, no, it's not by a long shot a perfect policy. It's a policy that reflects the limited understanding of the day of the problem of sexual abuse--but that's not weird or peculiar to the Catholic Church, either. We'd still be much better off if this policy had been followed rather than allowed to gather dust.

What causes you to believe that priests who were using their office to sexually molest children would be confessing it every Saturday afternoon in the confessional? If the perpetrator does confess, then that becomes a route for dealing with him. Is it your position that the Catholic Church should have had no policy for dealing with child abusers who did not voluntarily confess? Or do you think that hearsay should have been the basis for deciding who should be defrocked or prosecuted?

It's the fact that these people so commonly are repeat offenders that makes it vital that anyone who _can_ report the crime, do so. I emphasize again, this is an obligation that falls only on those who _can_ report it, and _know_ about the requirement. It doesn't fall on six-year-olds who can't articulate why what happened is wrong, or who believe the molester's claims that talking about it is wrong. But, no, being a victim yourself does not automatically excuse you from any responsibility for protecting others; if you _can_ report it (including being old enough to figure how and to whom, and psychologically functional enough that you are able to do so), and _know_ about the requirement to do so, then the risk to others is precisely why you should, and the penalty of being expected to refrain from the Eucharist if you _choose_ (rather than being for various reasons unable to), is no very terrible punishment.

#97 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 12:55 PM:

James said:

Nowhere in the massive Uniform Code of Military Justice is there a requirement to inform civil authority of a given crime, or to hand over a given person to civil authorities. It is not mentioned at all; neither required nor forbidden.

The last time I checked, the Catholic Church was not a subsidiary organization of the United States government (or any other government), empowered by Congress to create its own justice system and enforce its own laws. It's a non-profit corporation. If, say, the Ford Foundation were discovered to have a detailed policy on how to deal with accusations that vice presidents of the foundation had raped secretaries, and that policy didn't explicitly include "go to the civil authorities if the accusations are plausible", it would be a scandal.

#98 ::: Reimer Behrends ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 01:00 PM:
Sam wrote: Isn't the real point about this "obliged to report the crime under threat of excommunication" business that nobody seems to have been aware of the obligation until this document came to light?

Umm. For the third time now: No, this obligation is not secret. I've cited (twice) an old and public source (the Catholic Encyclopedia) above that summarizes equally public provisions of canon law.

#99 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 01:06 PM:

The US Military operates in a hundred countries where what the Congress of the United States does or does not empower is of no matter. We are not obligated by the UCMJ to go to the civil authorities there, either.

#100 ::: Sam Dodsworth ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 01:16 PM:

I certainly didn't mean to suggest that it was secret. My point is that that no-one on this thread seems previously to have been aware of it. This suggests to me that there hasn't been much effort to bring it to anyone's attention. Or is it on the standard list of 'Duties of a Good Catholic', if there such a thing exists?

#101 ::: Reimer Behrends ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 01:36 PM:

As a layperson, you do not need to be aware of it. Your confessor, however, should be, and alert you to the obligation. Consider it a Mirandarization in reverse: "You do not have the right to remain silent. Everything you say can and will be used against the perpetrator to prevent a reoccurrence of the crime."

#102 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 01:41 PM:

Sister Maureen Agnes used to say, of the Catholic Encyclopedia, that "no Catholic home should be without one."

But be that as it may, if I became aware of any misbehavior whatever by a priest, my first action would be to call the bishop.

As far as the civil authorities, not everything that's a religious problem is also a civil problem.

#103 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 01:54 PM:

The US Military operates in a hundred countries where what the Congress of the United States does or does not empower is of no matter. We are not obligated by the UCMJ to go to the civil authorities there, either.

Quite so. Are you suggesting that the UCMJ should be the Catholic Church's guide in morality?

#104 ::: Sam Dodsworth ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 01:55 PM:

Reimer:

As a layperson, you do not need to be aware of it. Your confessor, however, should be, and alert you to the obligation.

Except that your confessor is presumably the person you're supposed to be reporting.

James:

Sister Maureen Agnes used to say, of the Catholic Encyclopedia, that "no Catholic home should be without one."

But not "It is your duty as a Good Catholic to own one and read it"? I think my point stands.

But be that as it may, if I became aware of any misbehavior whatever by a priest, my first action would be to call the bishop.

This is persuasive, good common sense, and proof that you're not the sort of person the threat of excommunication is aimed at.

I do think the whole obligation thing is probably aimed at people who have affairs with priests, though, and actually less creepy if it's not something most people are informed about.

#105 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 02:48 PM:

James--if I became aware of any misbehavior whatever by a priest, my first action would be to call the bishop.

Depending on the sort of misbehavior, I might suggest the police instead, but I'm not Catholic.

Be that as it may, what's the second action? Specifically, if the bishop was someone like Law or Daily, and did nothing, what would you do?

#106 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 03:05 PM:

If it were Law or Daily or any of the other notoriously immoral churchmen, my next call would be to the cops, and my third call would be to the metro desk of my local paper.

That's if it were a civil crims as well, rather than, say, preaching that Jesus Christ, while True God, was not True Man.

If that were the case, then my second call would be to the Holy Office.

#107 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 03:22 PM:

Good grief, James, you'd really rat your parish priest out to the Inquisition? (I know they're not called that anymore, but then they're not called the Holy Office anymore, either...last I heard, their latest (criminal, if you ask me) alias was the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.)

I realize the breach in your example was a pretty severe doctrinal failure, though. Would you rat him out for more minor things? Like saying that the Pope had committed an error in judgement when he spoke ex whatever (i.e. infallibly) about the Bodily Assumption of Mary, back the last time that happened?

What about something that wasn't particularly an issue of clear dogma, like encouraging young people to use condoms as a way to prevent AIDS? I'm trying to figure out where the boundary is for you to call in the Inquisitors.

#108 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 04:15 PM:

Xopher, you're coming across like someone who hasn't really thought out a moral system beyond authority is not to be trusted.

I don't know if that's true, but it's sure how you're coming across.

James is coming across like someone whose moral system treats as axiomatic the idea that authority is good for something, and that to keep on being good for something, it has to be maintained to a high standard of conduct.

I'm personally far more sympathetic to James' position about authority than I am to yours; this may be colouring my response somewhat, but the tone you're taking is easily read by at least this reader as "everything having to do with the Catholic Church is evil and you shouldn't have anything to do with it yourself or even consider following its rules".

You more or less must assume that any Catholic, including your present interlocutors of that persuasion, are mewling idiots to take that view into the conversation; I can't see how that can possibly be productive.

#109 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 04:35 PM:

I'm tempted to have "It's more complicated than you think" tatooed on my forehead. There are two serious but separate issues here: sin and crime. What is sinful is not always against the law, and vice versa. The document that we're talking about was dealing very specifically with sin. The thing that most of the world is up in arms about is the lawless behavior of the Church. This isn't to say that those who believe in sin don't think it was sinful, just that most of the arguments and accusations have been about the law.

It is not a sin to be solicited. A woman thus propositioned by her confessor may be in an awkward spot, but she has nothing to fear from the Church if she reports it. Indeed, if what Jim has been saying about the document is correct, then this document sets out various procedures by which the accuser is protected. Nor is she required to report the incident to the guy who propositioned her. In the normal course of things, I would expect that someone who had that kind of negative experience in the confessional would find a different priest for confession. If she is a devout Catholic, she will switch congregations, choose a different priest, or something. I'd also be surprised if the topic didn't come up in confession, actually -- although that's largely conjecture, having never been to confession nor talked to any real people about it in detail. Only in an extreme case of isolation would her choice be reduced to the priest who came on to her, and unlike a child, she will know it's a sin.

It is very likely that this document was written by sincere, pious men addressing what they saw as a terrible sin within the church. It isn't a surprise that they would think that a woman propositioned by a priest would instantly flee to the arms of the Church for comfort and protection. That is, after all, what the church is there for.
The issue of excommunication is, I note, one that shocks and dismays the heathens and pagans far more than the believers. (Technical question: I'm a militant agnostic who was raised as a Fundamentalist Christian. Am I a heathen, a heretic, or something else? I can't be a pagan, since I don't worship anyone/thing. Just curious.) It's not our religion, why are we so self-righteous about it?

I've always thought that the Catholic Church was too fond of negative reinforcement, and I think that the admonishment not to take the sacrament until the solicitation has been reported is meant as a gentle nudge in the direction of virtue. Mind, the Church's idea of a gentle nudge is often my idea of a serious kick in the face, but we're looking at things from a different point of view.

It's been pointed out that the document was written 40 years ago (the same year as Vatican II, and the year I was born, so strange), and does not have our modern sensibilities about sexual abuse. The Church isn't perfect. In 1962, the advice given to battered wives was to go back to their husbands and be more submissive, the term "child abuse" didn't exist, and almost no one believed that children were being sexually abused in their own homes.

Did this document contribute to the cover-ups of abuse? Was this document instrumental in the choice of bishops to move priests from one parish to another, just a couple of steps ahead of the law? I can see how it could be. It talks of secrecy, it talks of moving offenders away from the object of sin, and these requirements could, indeed, be used as an excuse for the inexcusable behavior that we have seen. That doesn't make it the Vatican's fault, nor does it mean that this document was designed to create those situations.

If I had to be making guesses, I'd guess that the Vatican knew more than it has admitted over the last 40 years, and done less than it could. I don't think, though, that there was a Vatican led conspiracy to cover up all the crimes. Instead, I think that is something that is a "natural" impulse. Priests exist in a world apart, and they are brethern to each other. That they would be protective of each other, even in the face of such sin, isn't a surprise.

Did the Church feel that it was above the law? Yes, I think it did; it often has been. I don't know, if a penitent confesses to a murder, can the priest break the seal of the confessional without committing a sin? And is it a crime if the priest doesn't tell the cops? There is certainly a belief that the spiritual is more important than the material, and God's Law supercedes Man's Law. That isn't supposed to set the Church above the law, but sometimes it seems to.

The things that come together to create the sexual abuse scandals have been there all along, with or without this document; a celibate clergy, a strictly hierarchical organization, a certain penchant for secrecy, a brotherhood of men set apart who bear secrets, and great reverence for the office.

The bottom line, though, is that man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal. The bishops and we, both, can find authority from Rome to hide the offenses to spare the Church from exposure to censure which would cause great harm, but then, both we and they can find the opposite, also. Reading what's actually there, especially so long after the fact and after so many grim stories, is very hard indeed.

#110 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 04:43 PM:

Graydon, I can't imagine what makes you think that of me. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Well, that's an exaggeration: I do believe that the institutional Church is a bad thing, and that the Inquisition (by any other name) is a bad thing.

I was really, honestly stunned to learn that a Catholic lay person would denounce a priest to the Inquisition. This has nothing to do with any position I may have on the Divine and Human Nature of Christ (in fact I have none), nor on the Church's right to make the rules in its own sandbox (which I am torn about, since religious freedom is a critical quality-of-life issue for me).

I don't see how anything I've said can possibly be interpreted as assuming any of the people in this conversation are "mewling idiots." I am floored by that characterization.

I apologize if I gave offense. I was trying to find an ethical boundary in an ethical system to which I don't subscribe, and therefore have no instinct for.

And I have no such knee-jerk distrust of authority as you describe. I DO have an automatic distrust of dogma, which is rather different. And I must say, I certainly agree that mere rejection of authority (or even dogma) is not a sufficient moral system, and would add that neither is acceptance of it.

#111 ::: marek ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 06:25 PM:

Teresa

I was interested by your comment

British anti-Catholicism is real, and it's currently active. Feed isis nimrod babylon pope into Google and see how much nastiness turns up. This pathological body of interconnected libels is to modern Catholicism what The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion is to Judaism, and it's got "MANUFACTURED IN BRITAIN" stamped on its bottom.

So I did exactly as you suggested. I looked at four randomly chosen sites from the first page of results - which is all I had stomach for. Three of the sites had clear internal evidence of US origin, the fourth had no clear source but some US-focused content. In short, "MANUFACTURED IN BRITAIN" wasn't stamped on any of it.

If I am missing something here about the source and distribution routes for this stuff, I would be happy (or actually rather sad) to be enlightened, but I don't find your assertion persuasive so far.

Of course here is anti-catholic prejudice to be found - in the orange orders of Glasgow as much as in Belfast, and in the remnants of legislation from the religious struggles of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

But even on your hypothesis that this kind of material is being produced in the UK, it is a huge leap to say that that accounts for the style of coverage of serious newspapers. It's not hard to find some pretty unplesant political material on US-based websites, I don't take that as proof that the New York Times is run by fascists.

#112 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 09:57 PM:

Marek: Teresa's reference to "isis nimrod babylon pope" takes us back to The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop. This is the ur-source of much anti-Catholic nuttiness. It is British in origin.

Lydia: I'm a militant agnostic who was raised as a Fundamentalist Christian. Am I a heathen, a heretic, or something else? It's hard to tell what you are. In the grand scheme of things that divides the world into Catholics and non-Catholics, you're a non-Catholic. If you want to know the precise kind ... a Fundamentalist Christian is a heretic if they have valid baptism (since they believe in individual interpretation of Scripture and they believe in salvation by faith alone), or a separate religion if they don't. From the point of view of your birth religion, you're an apostate. Agnosticism is itself a heresy (it claims that God is incapable of revealing Himself, thus placing limits on God's power). To be a heretic, however, first you must have been validly baptized, second you must be aware that your belief is heretical, and third, knowing that it is a heretical belief, you must persist in it after being instructed in the true belief. So, while you may not have been a heretic this morning, now that I've told you that your belief is heretical and sketched out the true belief, you may be a heretic now. If you were validly baptized.

To answer another of your questions: I don't know, if a penitent confesses to a murder, can the priest break the seal of the confessional without committing a sin?

The answer is "no." Normally the penance assigned would include words to the effect of "go to the police and tell them what you just told me." This is a common subject of discussion, with all kinds of hypotheticals thrown around. Like, "well, suppose that the guy confessed that he planned to kill you on your way home that night. Can you decide to vary your route?" And, again, the answer is "no." This sort of thing can keep you busy for hours.

Xopher: Good grief, James, you'd really rat your parish priest out to the Inquisition?

They were called the Holy Office when I was growing up, so that's still the name I know 'em by. Recall, if you will, when this document we've been speaking of talks about putting a priest to the question, that's the inquisition, right there. The investigation has already been done, in secret, out of his sight. The bishop has the accusation and the witnesses' statements in front of him. And this poor slob is pulled in, is told that he's been accused of a horrid sin, and that he won't be told the names of his accusers, or be allowed to question the witnesses, or know what they said. In short, the people who are objecting to this document are objecting to having a priest who has abused children hauled before the Inquisition.

The Inquistion had some good points, of course. It was the first court in Europe to require, before a man could be condemned for a crime, that it be proved that the crime had been commited.

Now if a priest was preaching a clear heresy (Monophysitism in this case), and the bishop refused to do anything about it, don't you think that his superiors would need to know? One of the advantages of the Church is that it has one set of beliefs. If individuals started preaching whatever they felt like, we'd be indistinguishable from Protestants.

Vicki: Depending on the sort of misbehavior, I might suggest the police instead, but I'm not Catholic.

Yeah, well, if I saw him robbing the First National Bank, I'd probably call the cops first. But the bishop a close second.

#113 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 10:01 PM:

Reimer -- thanks for the cite. It certainly sounds like the typical news story could be getting the emphasis wrong; but I'm wondering how any of the violations we've been discussing fit as scandal in the sense presented. Into what sin would the faithful be lead by either the action or the report of the action? The easy (and biased?) conclusion is that the "sin" in question is loss of faith in the ]Church[ (the list in the Credo includes "one catholic and apostolic church"); this strikes me as designed more to support the institution than to assure right living. (Roman Catholicism is hardly unique in condemning apostasy; it seems (to me, from the outside) to be a characteristic of the bulk of organized religions.)

#114 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 10:38 PM:

One of the advantages of the Church is that it has one set of beliefs.

That's the Great Divide, right there. I don't see having one set of beliefs as an advantage, not even a little bit. It's an interesting, indeed almost shocking, perspective. (I'm just saying we're very, very different here. Not dissing you or assuming you're a mewling idiot, contra Graydon.)

And Protestants preach different things, but if "everyone preached whatever they felt like," you'd be more like prophets. Or Pagans (a related concept, he said, chortling evilly into his nonexistent beard).

I have to disagree with you about agnosticism, at least the brand my parents tried (and, obviously, failed) to raise me in. I wouldn't say that we believed God was incapable of revealing Himself, but that he hadn't chosen to do so thus far. In its purest form, agnosticism is the belief that the Truth about the universe, afterlife, God, and so on is unknown -- to the individual agnostic, who may keep an open mind about whether anyone else knows it. ("I don't know -- and you don't either!" is a militant agnostic.)

The agnostic viewpoint, even if it's not a spiritual position, is very useful in many areas of life. The ability to hold multiple possibilities open simultaneously, without choosing any of them until more evidence is available, is a great help in problem-solving, for example. And a thing I call "conversational agnosticism," which is the assumption that either party in a conversation, especially a disputative one, may be right, and that the conversation is a mutual process of figuring that out, is the most courteous of discursive modes.

Of course, you don't WIN as often. But the true agnostic would rather be right after the conversation, regardless of hir rightness or wrongness going in. WINNING is kind of irrelevant.

Now the Church may define agnosticism as you do. If so, I don't think I know any agnostics by that definition.

#115 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 10:59 PM:

And Protestants preach different things, but if "everyone preached whatever they felt like," you'd be more like prophets. Or Pagans (a related concept, he said, chortling evilly into his nonexistent beard).

There are 20-30,000 different Protestant denominations, and nearly 300 new ones forming every year. Call 'em pagans, or prophets, or anything you want -- they aren't Catholics.

=======

What you're defining as agnosticism is actually skepticism. True agnosticism states that we do not and cannot know anything about the existence of God, the future world, or any other supernatural matter.

#116 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 11:20 PM:

No, James, Pagan is what I am. Wiccan, to be more specific.

And Protestants, Catholics, and C of E (sort of half-and-half) -- you all look like Christians to me.

And now you're being a little insulting. Where do you, or your Church even, get the right to define "true agnosticism"? I'm telling you that that's how I was raised, and it's what we called it. Where are you getting your definition? And you want me to tell you that if you were a True Catholic you would believe everything the Pope says without question? You'd be right to be annoyed. I'm annoyed.

You're missing the distinction between "unknown" and "unknowable." If I claim that the truths of the universe are unknowable, than I'm claiming a high degree of knowledge for myself; if I admit that I don't know these truths, and in fact don't know whether they can be known, then the "not-knowing" that is the key to agnosticism is what I have...it's a kind of radical spiritual humility.

#117 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 11:25 PM:

You're annoyed? There's a coincidence. I'm starting to get annoyed too.

There's a reason it's best for everyone in discussions of this sort to go more than halfway in the direction of mutual civility.

#118 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 11:29 PM:

As to "where do you get the right" to define agnosticism, or chili dogs: from the same place you get the right to call yourself a pagan, or whatever else you want to say.

Lydia asked for a clarification in terms of Jim's beliefs; Jim was answering. He was also answering your challenge. Now you're pulling the "where do you get to define" neener-neener, which is definitely one of the least attractive arrows in the quiver of online rhetoric. (Not to be confused with the powder magazine of usenet disputation, or the armored personnel carrier of mailing-list management.)

#119 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 11:52 PM:

Your quarrel isn't with me, Xopher. It's with Thomas Huxley, who coined the word.

And calling protestants "pagans" was your idea, recall. The thing in italics was a quote from you.

#120 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 12:03 AM:

Jim's definition of agnosticism is exactly the definition I use, though expressed from a Catholic point of view. What I believe is that anything that is numinous to be God or the Invisible World is necessarily a subjective experience, not an objective one. Satori isn't something that you can measure and map. It is a thing that can happen, sometimes, to some people, sometimes people who are seeking it, even. Subjective experiences cannot be shared. That does refine out to God cannot reveal himself, which certainly is a heresy when you put it that way.

This definition is, I believe, the usual and common one for religious discussion. More casual conversations use the term more broadly, but there are important distinctions between atheists, agnostics, skeptics, disbelievers, etc.

Now my big question is, did I have a valid baptism? It was an infant baptism, sprinkling not full immersion, performed by a properly ordained minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. Baptism is one of the two sacraments that they believe in, communion being the other. It looks as if I'm best described as apostate and heretical, assuming that baptism counts. But does it? I know that there was a certain amount of upheaval every now and again in my church when an adult wanted to join the church and they had to decide whether or not he'd been properly baptised. Full immersion baptism were the topic of great dispute. I think that the Catholic baptism was all but unexceptionable.

Oh, and thank you for the information on the burden of secrecy laid upon the priest as a confessor. I had thought that that was true, but was not certain.

#121 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 12:08 AM:

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said "Stop! don't do it!"

"Why shouldn't I?" he said.

I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!"

He said, "Like what?"

I said, "Well...are you religious or atheist?"

He said, "Religious."

I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?"

He said, "Christian."

I said, "Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?"

He said, "Protestant."

I said, "Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"

He said, "Baptist!"

I said, "Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"

He said, "Baptist Church of God!"

I said, "Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?"

He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God!"

I said, "Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?"

He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915!"

I screamed, "Die, heretic scum!" and pushed him off the bridge.

#122 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 12:11 AM:

Jim,

T'was ever thus.

*wandering away, giggling*

#123 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 04:03 AM:

Alexander Hislop first published The Two Babylons in 1853. To use this as proof that Britain is the source of anti-Catholic feeling, seems to me to be as rational as considering Russia to be the source of anti-Semitic feeling, as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was written and first published there in 1897.

#124 ::: Sam Dodsworth ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 05:27 AM:

I'm conflicted on the "British anti-Catholicism" thing. My own experience is that most Britons are vastly indifferent to matters of religion and so don't really have the energy to be particularly pro- or anti-Catholic. I suspect that a combination of mild ignorance and mild indifference can look like prejudice to deeply-involved outsider, but I also accept that national character is almost invisible in your home nation.

On the other hand... as a Briton, I get a flash of faintly weary irritation whenever I see a glib generalization trotted out to explain the British media's apparently-inexplicable tendency not to report the news in the same way as the American media. (And, yes, this isn't strictly the same case, but the feeling remains.) I know it's not entirely reasonable but I hope it's forgivable, or at least understandable.

#125 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 09:35 AM:

So, while you may not have been a heretic this morning, now that I've told you that your belief is heretical and sketched out the true belief, you may be a heretic now. If you were validly baptized.

I don't know about Lydia, but I'm a heretic now. I find this very amusing, for some reason.

#126 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 09:49 AM:

It appears that, never having been baptised (validly or otherwise) I can never be a heretic.

#127 ::: Shalla ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 10:30 AM:

Marek: Teresa's reference to "isis nimrod babylon pope" takes us back to The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop. This is the ur-source of much anti-Catholic nuttiness. It is British in origin.

Right. So it's valid for me to say that all Catholic priests abuse children, because at least one has been convicted of that? Good Lord, what a ridiculous argument.

It seems to me that some US residents feel very free to make vast, sweeping statements about "the British" or "Europeans" that they would be vastly (and rightly) offended at being made about "Americans" or "Catholics". And so, it's worth bearing in mind that accusations of bigotry cut both ways.

#128 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 10:43 AM:

You have a point. Particularly considering Teresa's long history of habitual attacks on Britain, its news media, intellectual culture, etc. Definitely, every letter of her record shows that she "feels very free to make vast, sweeping statements about 'the British' or 'Europeans'."

Oh, wait, that's actually the opposite of the truth.

I actually suspect many of us have been trotting out well-rehearsed grievance scripts that go beyond what this actual conversation calls for. I certainly cop to it.

#129 ::: Sam Dodsworth ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 11:05 AM:

Um... I'm not accusing anyone of having a "long history of attacks of Britain", and (to be brutally frank) my irritation was directed mainly at James' original remark that 'British anti-Catholicism is alive and well".

In fairness, and because (despite appearances) I really don't want to give offense, I'd also like to say that if I hadn't got irritated, I wouldn't have joined in this very interesting discussion from which I've learned an awful lot - not least from James.

#130 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 11:22 AM:

From James, quite a few comments up: In short, the people who are objecting to this document are objecting to having a priest who has abused children hauled before the Inquisition.

Um, no. While I can not speak for all of the other people objecting to this document, I can state that *I* object to a document from the church that sounds entirely legal in its execution. Perhaps this is because my experience with Catholic documents is limited to encyclicals
and the like, and these documents, while providing instruction to the faithful and clergy, don't seem to be legal in nature. So I objected to the document because it told the clergy how to deal with matters of solicitation in such dry tones, with emphasis on how they had to deal with the victims and what the victims needed to do (which may make legal sense, but wasn't helping my emotional response), but did nothing to address the real problem of molestation.

Objecting to any document doesn't necessarily mean you object with its objective.

#131 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 11:59 AM:

Kellie, this document is not primarily about molestation; it's primarily about priests using the confessional for sexual solicitation. It does also deal with child molestation and bestiality, but the men who wrote it clearly had in mind primarily adult women being solicited.

Moreover, it was written forty years ago, with the awareness and understanding of the problem of child molestation that then prevailed in most of the developed world--which is to say, much less than now.

And, yes, it is a legal document, not a pastoral document. Were you under the impression that an international organization of the size of the Catholic Church, which is in part a sovereign state itself (and used to be much more so), is capable of functioning without legal documents?

Legal documents need to be clear and specific, in ways entirely different from pastoral documents, because they serve really different functions. This one in particular was not about how and why sexual solicitation in the confessional is a bad thing; it takes pretty much for granted that everyone to whom it is addressed already knows that. It's about the practical details of how the organization of the Church is going to deal with priests accused of it. Complaining that it doesn't sound like an encyclical seems to be rather like complaining that my kitchen table isn't equipped with four-wheel drive.

#132 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 12:22 PM:

OK: I take it all back. Sorry. If I was uncivil, I apologize.

And what I was saying, James, was not that you could call Protestants Prophets or Pagans, but that if YOU (Catholics) all started preaching whatever you wanted, you'd be like prophets.

The Pagan bit was a joke.

But when everyone says I'm wrong, I consider it at least possible. So I'm going to go consider.

#133 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 12:57 PM:

I've considered. I need to do a bit better.

I hadn't intended my "where do you get to define" as a "neener neener" or anything so unattractive. Being told that the brand of agnosticism we practiced in the home I grew up in wasn't "real" agnosticism pushed my buttons; I reacted inappropriately, and I apologize, to James in particular and the thread in general.

I have never believed anything like what James and others are calling agnosticism; indeed, I now believe that the Divine is ALWAYS revealing Itself, in new ways, and in whatever fashion each person can perceive best. Also that there are constantly new Truths to be found and shared.

I call that letting the Divine come through; some Christians I know call it Prophecy. That's what I meant.

This isn't, of course, quite the same thing as "preaching whatever they want." But, less flippantly, what is the place of prophecy in the modern Roman Catholic Church? If God chooses to reveal something new, or reveal Himself in a new way, how does that happen? How does the Church determine which visions, prophecies, etc. are authentic and which are not?

Perhaps that's offtopic for this thread. If so, James, you can email me if you feel like continuing the discussion privately.

#134 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 01:10 PM:

Lis, I was not complaining that it wasn't an encyclical. I was merely stating that that is what I was used to and hence received a shock when I found it wasn't what I was used to. Your comparison would be more appropriate if, upon entering your kitchen expecting to see an elaborate oak table to match all the other elaborate oak furnishings I'd seen in the only other areas of your house I'd seen before, I found instead a $10 folding card-table from Target. It's likely to raise an eyebrow or two.

I was not under any impression at all of the legal side of the Church, having only dealt with the pastoral. I don't tend to think of religion in legal terms - outside of my freedom to worship, that is. And I guess I need to change that.

And the document defines solicitation as something that happens in any form of the penitant/confessor relationship. As James and I were trying to hash out quite a bit back, this means basically any priest/parishoner relationship, since the priest is always in a position to take a parishoners confession.

#135 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 01:46 PM:

Hey, suddenly I'm a heretic! Neato. (I was baptised after infant surgery, because I wasn't expected to make it and that's what they did back then. I believe it was a Lutheran baptism, if that makes any difference to the flavour of my heresy.)

#136 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 02:09 PM:

Well. I've created at least three new heretics. My work here is done.

======

Lots of people who call themselves "realists" are surprised to discover that they aren't realists, they're nominalists.

#137 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 04:48 PM:

I've considered myself a heretic ever since I found out that 'heresy' comes from a word that means 'to choose'. I don't think I'm a heretic per the Church though, since I don't think I was ever baptised.

James: I'm more of a verbalist, myself. I know all those verbal cures. Come over sometime and I'll make you a cup of verbal tea! :-)

#138 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 04:56 PM:

Xopher, the Christian denomination within which I was brought up does not believe in baptism (or sacraments, or the laity) - therefore I know for sure that I was not baptised. What amuses me is that by Catholic definition, it follows that no one brought up as an attender of the Religious Society of Friends can ever be a heretic. (Well, not unless they decide to get baptised in adulthood and then become heretics.)

#139 ::: Caroline Yeldham ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2003, 06:14 AM:

Gosh! I went away for a day (Perugia towels in the V&A) and look what happens. I wasn't aware of attacking anyone or anything, but of seeking greater understanding (and thought I hadn't even posted much on this document). In context, the following article in the Guardian yesterday might interest people http://society.guardian.co.uk/societyguardian/story/0,7843,1021655,00.html.
I don't think its anti-catholic, or anti-clerical and is certainly pro treating abusers as people with problems, not monsters.

Graydon wrote
"James is coming across like someone whose moral system treats as axiomatic the idea that authority is good for something, and that to keep on being good for something, it has to be maintained to a high standard of conduct.

I'm personally far more sympathetic to James' position about authority than I am to yours"

and I agree with this. The problem comes when the authority doesn't maintain 'a high standard of conduct'. Who monitors that standard, what action is taken when standards are broken and, if it's an internal system, when is it taken outside the system, and how do lay people respond. These aren't problems unique to the Catholic church - police and doctors have similar systems, as well as the military.

At what point does a lay person reject the hierarchy because of unacceptable behaviour? That's a matter for the individual, and it is surely where authority falls down. I can't comment on the individual's decision, or have an emotional attachment to it. Its not my church. I would argue that that detactment, or you could call it apathy, is fairly typical of most of Britain. I wouldn't say it was hostility.

There has been strong condemnation of the Dutroux case in Belgium, and of the ineptitude (at least) of the police. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,6903,710090,00.html
That doesn't make us prejudiced against Belgians!

Caroline

#140 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2003, 12:29 PM:

I thought a little humor might be appropriate here.

:)

#141 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2003, 08:08 PM:

A woman thus propositioned by her confessor may be in an awkward spot, but she has nothing to fear from the Church if she reports it.

I'm afraid I laught pretty hard at this. In 1962, a woman who reported to a confessor a rape or sex with a priest, at least in Ireland, had better odds of ending up a slave in a Magdalene laundry than seeing the Church denounce the priest and turn him over to the civil authorities.

#142 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2003, 10:51 AM:

Tavella is quite correct, and not exaggerating one bit. Read this for a brief precis.

#143 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2003, 06:53 PM:

John Geoghan is facing a sterner judge tonight.

#144 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2003, 07:28 PM:

There will be some questions about this. When I first read the story I wondered if someone screwed up and put him in general population, which with his record would have been equivalent to a death sentence -- and a fast one indeed.

Checking around, I found that Souza-Baranowski is a level 6 facility, the highest in the MA system, and Geoghan was being held in what was described as "protective custody". This sounds like he was in the equivalent of administrative segregation (AdSeg) in a max facility, near the level like Pelican Bay or High Desert in the Califorinia systen or Florence ADX in the federal. However, the story also says that Geoghan had contact with other inmates, which indicates he was not at the max level of segregation possible.

My understanding is that he was already notorious in MA, and as he was not a violent offender, having hin in a max facility demonstrates that the system understood the threat against him. In the other so called "supermax" facilities I mentioned, a prisoner can be held wihtout any contact with other prisoners at all, and very little direct contact with correctional staff, if the threat to or from the prisoner is serious enough. And it sometimes is. The question is why any other prisoner had access to Geoghan at all at this point, and what role corrections staff had.

May a loving God have mercy on him, and bring gracious healing to his victims.

#145 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2003, 01:39 AM:

Yonmei, you're right -- you'd have to be baptized to qualify as a heretic. Right now I believe you're classed as a Virtuous Heathen.

#146 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2003, 10:50 AM:

Sorry to say, my suspicions were correct. According to the news this morning, the prisoner accused of strangling Geoghan probably shouldn't have had access to him at all, given his record. The verdict will probably be that there was some recordkeeping or procedural error, but I wonder about the CO's in this case.

#147 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2003, 06:53 PM:

Teresa, I am charmed to be a "Virtuous Heathen". :-)


#148 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2003, 11:56 PM:

Isn't it nice? I used to be one.

Meanwhile, anent an earlier argument, here's Gregorian rants on a recent article in the Spectator.

#149 ::: Greg ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2003, 06:43 AM:

Thanks for the nod, Teresa. I'm not sure how I missed this thread in the first place.

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