“The men began to mock him and beat him”

Not a strange dream to have at Eastertide. Christ, blooded with scourging and the crown of thorns, being mocked by his tormentors. But my waking mind saw clearly that the figure was Christ and Pope Benedict at the same time.

It is part of my job, and often my penance, to see virtually every comment on the Pope which is published in the English-speaking world. And, although the latest batch started with his statement on condoms and Aids in Africa, they now of course refer to his attitudes towards paedophilia, as Archbishop of Munich, as head of the CDF and as Pope. And we can be sure that these remarks will come thicker and faster as the Papal visit approaches.

I have no intention of producing an apologia for the Pope. Sometimes he has done or said exactly the right thing, sometimes more prudence  and less naivety would have been helpful. But in no instance has he acted without loving and thoughtful concern. Which is a great deal more than can be said of many of his critics, in their smug and ignorant righteousness.

That may be uncharitable, so I will try to make up for it by redoubling my prayers for the Pope this Easter.

O     O     O

I have not found it possible to give a brief, yet adequately detailed, account of the various elements in the stories which led to the accusations being made about the Pope. But below I give links to pieces which will help those who want to investigate them. And indeed to comment, where appropriate. I need hardly say that most of the world’s press have shown a greater interest in hate headlines than in constructive commentary.

A detailed and expert account regarding the secrecy imposed on those involved in paedophila cases.

Account of the Pope’s level of responsibility and attitude towards paedophile cases.

Vatican statement on Fr Lawrence Murphy

A revealing account by the Church judge in the Murphy case.

Discussion of the New York Times story on Fr Peter Hullermann

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Church and Society, Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to “The men began to mock him and beat him”

  1. Superview says:

    I would be happier with these accounts, which are clearly written with a serious attempt to get at the truth, if anywhere anyone was able to find an instruction from the Vatican to report abuse cases to the authorities.
    It is all very well maintaining that the documents nowhere say the bishops should not report them, when the penalty for not maintaining the secrecy of the canonical tribunal procedures was excommunication! To be frank, this is close to being economical with the truth.

  2. Superview, I have sympathy with your thoughts on this matter, yet I feel that your suggestion of economy with the truth goes beyond the evidence. That is, it may be so, but I don’t think we can be sure that it is so.
    This was a formal description of a canonical procedure which was intended, though it may often have been misused, to protect those involved – and especially a cleric who might be falsely accused, It applied universally, and I understand that obligatory reporting of such incidents is not mandatory in all civil jurisdictions. The 2002/3 instruction was a deliberate tightening by the CDF to ensure that such cases were dealt with properly in canonical terms; it did not set out to give practical instructions on all the elements involved.
    We would both had been happier had the instruction had an addendum saying that thr canonical procedure and confidentiality had no bearing on such civil duties as the local jurisdiction might require. This is where I think that naivety rather than hidden agenda applies. The suggestion made by many that the instruction was deliberately intended to inhibit reporting to the civil authorities seems to me unwarranted.
    I speak with some feeling because when I was marriage counselling I met frequently with the results of paedophilia (cases of incest not clerical abuse). Fortunately I was dealing with the deep scars of old history. But I would have been in an awkward position otherwise because I was obliged to keep the confidentiality of the client. I would have had in effect to choose between checking a crime and publicising the fact that one could not speak confidentially to a counsellor. The parallel with the seal of the confessional is obvious.

  3. claret says:

    Regretably computer ‘gliches’ prevent me from reading the accounts that Quentin refers to so my comments arise from what I can recall from various media reports.
    It was after the first of the reports from Ireland that I read a quote from an Archbishop/Bishop to the effect: ‘where were the investigative journalists of the day’ to which my mental response was ‘where wre the investigative Bishops of the day?’ In the first question the Bishop seemed to think that journalists should have done their job for them. Bizarre.
    Now you cannot have investigative journalism without it sometimes turning up things that you would rather they had not and these matters concerning the Pope seem to fall into that category.
    What has helped paedophile priests prosper in the Church is the loyalty shown to the clergy by Church going Catholics who until fairly recently refused to believe any of the accusations levied against Priests. Such allegations have now been shown to have had, in many cases, sound foundations.
    So, its not good shouting ‘foul’ when the media pounce on the top man and unearth some evidence of dubious goings on.
    I don’t think that has been well handled by the Pope and his advisors and to try and dismiss it as some kind of witchhunt is only making matters worse.

  4. Ion Zone says:

    It is my though that, regardless of the truth of the matter, the Pope is starting to look like he’s weeding. Absolute honesty must be the Pope’s domain. And he must seek help in translating his message to the people.

  5. Ion Zone says:

    That should have said wheedling, sorry!

  6. st.joseph says:

    I know three priests who were falslely accused . One who sufferd most seriousley and was cleared of all accusations.
    I know this to be true. I can understand if the Church held back before it was proven. If this had have happened in the case I mention a lot of unecessary hurt would not have been caused.
    But don’t let anyone think that I am in sympathy with child abusers- only that we must pray for them as well as the victims, and also that the people in authority who are dealing with these cases are vigilent before making accusations.
    I agree with Quentin. I beleive that confidentially is a virtue.
    I just feel vengeance creeping in here with the media.We must leave that to the Lord!But of course the secular society don’t know Him.

  7. Ion Zone says:

    It seems the Pope’s message, that the abusers would answer to God, is still overridden by a number of assumptions, most promanat of which being that these people can ‘just go to confession and be forgiven’, and that forgiveness can be a bad thing.

    There was also that thing in the papers about some garden centre chains flaunting Easter trading laws. You won’t be able to buy anything, but they will be open.

  8. Superview says:

    To be wrongly accused of child abuse must be one of the worst possible experiences anyone could have, and I can fully understand the utmost prudence being shown before such allegations were made by a responsible person.
    For us the benefits of hindsight are considerable, especially as we can see the whole picture, but it is clear that in so many cases there was more than simply prima facie evidence. I understand the sympathetic intent of suggesting naivety, but that is far from satisfactory. It is surely indisputable that the culture in the Hierarchical part of the Church has been one of secrecy and distrust – if not contempt – for the ‘people of God’, to use words from today’s service.
    As for Pope Benedict, he is an elderly man with an enormous job. He is a career pope who knew more than anyone what was going on in the clerical establishment (I refuse to say in the Church as that would be unjust to all those who knew nothing of this scandal). But now he must rely heavily on the people around him, other career clerics. Unfortunately, they are products of the same culture and they seem to be falling back upon the inadequate understanding of what is right and wrong that created this mess in the first place. Why is there an absence of candour? Why is there a sense being conveyed of the Vatican feeling sorry for itself?

  9. Superview, when I speak of naivety I have in mind that formerly the clergy did not understand paedophilia to be a fundamental character flaw but saw it simply as a serious sin (like fornication) for which forgiveness was available, and where a firm purpose of amendment could be accepted. You may remember how Cardinal Murphy O’Connor dealt with a case by simply moving the priest to another job. He, and everyone else, knows better now. Do we judge on what we know now or on what was known then?
    It is worth remembering that Pope Benedict has been much tougher on paedophilia than his predecessor.
    I have to say that I am less concerned with establishing the details of what the Pope did or did not do; and much more concerned with our losing sight of the corrupt power culture which is the ultimate background to all of this. I would like to hear the Pope addressing that directly.
    A new, and interesting article by Peter Stanford, a former CH editor, is at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/pope-benedict-xvil-the-apologist-1934748.html

  10. chauffer says:

    Perhaps we should be wondering about the role of Papal Nuncios in the course of decades of international abuse – ostensibly unheard of by the Vatican.

  11. st.joseph says:

    Peter Stanfords article I have read.
    The end of the article he say’s-The caretaker pope with a crisis that some catholic commentators have suggested could provoke a second Reformation as a disgruntled and disgusted laity seeks a new spiritual home.

    Also one commentator in Ireland said that some people said ‘that they would not set foot in a church as long as they live.
    How sad is all that! Like St Peter replied to Jesus ‘ Where would I go Lord, You have the Words of Eternal Life.
    Do these people who say these things have no real love of the Blessed Sacrament or do they not believe in the Real Presence?
    The Catholic Church is the One True Church Founded on Jesus Christ and it is His Body.
    Did I get it wrong on the radio this morning that Dr Rowan Williams had stated that he didnt want to be in communion with Rome. Please correct me if I heard it wrong. He isn’t anyway and never will be until he becomes a catholic. He was speaking out on the church in Ireland and his opinion that it might not exist any longer or words to that effect!

    Yes -what do the Papal Nuncios do?

  12. Michael Mahoney says:

    Perhaps, if Garibaldi had kicked the Pope out of Rome in 1862, we would not be having the scandals of today. The eviction might have been a wonderful wake up call for the Church, a chance to abandon the courtly trappings of power and, especially, the corrosive fear that, without such power and absolute control, temporal and spiritual, we are all surely lost.

  13. Ion Zone says:

    This is one of the saddest times in the Church’s history, our leaders have been proved, irrevocably, human. That the Church has abused and covered up no more, and probably less, than any other institution, our high standards have condemned them to the glee of their detractors.

  14. st.joseph says:

    Recently George Weigel wrote an article saying the sexual and physical abuse of children and young children is a global plague. This manifestation runs from teachers, by rape by uncles, to kidnapping by sex trafficing. In the U.S alone there are reportedly 39million victims of childhood sexual abuse.40 to 60% were abused by family members, including stepfathers and live in boyfriends of a childs mother. Thus suggesting that abused children are the principle victims of the sexual reveloution and the breakdown of marriage and the culture that we are willing to sacrafice everything to the goden rule of lust.
    George Weigel continued to say that the University Professor Carol Shakeshaft reports that 6 to 10% of public school students have been molested in recent years some 290 thousand. According to recent studies 2% of child abusers were catholic priests a phenomen that spiked between mid 1960s and 1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared. In the global media it seems only a catholic story which the catholic church is portrayed of the sexual abuse of the young.

    I am saying all this as Michael Maloney appeared to me to be saying it would be a better place without ‘a pope’
    Society has no pope -so what is the cause of the other 98% of child abuse in the world.
    Carol Shakeshaft web makes some interesting reading it will be found under her name. It shows how governments have hushed up the public schools scandals also it can be found under Charol
    Shakeshaft.

  15. claret says:

    It is sadly indicative of the times that we focus endlessly on this topic of child abuse by ordained clergy in the Catholic Church, and rightly so.
    It is tempting to look at world stats of child abuse and say how much greater it is in the home and how prevalent it is in other institutions but this is ice cold comfort.
    The fact remains that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ to be one of service and he gave us the perfect example of it and also said that more was expected of us because much had been given us.
    We have failed Christ. We have not held to his teachings. We cannot pass the blame for this to the world at large. We were meant to be different, a haven from that world, but in many ways have been worse than what went before.
    It is impossible to separate the Church as an insitution to what individual members of that institution do. We have had many Mother Theresas but now we have to face up to the fact that what we are noted for is not the Mother Theresas of this world but the abusive priests and how the opportunity to rid ourselves of them was lamentably mishandled, at best, and actively sanctioned, at worst.
    I never thought I would live to see the day when even the Catholic press was full of page after page of articles about abuse of children ( and adults,) by priests. But that is what we now have, and it goes on for week after week, year after year.
    It is highly regretable too that recent utterances from the Vatican show a terrible failure to grasp the enormity of what is being revealed almost daily.
    We seem to exist in a constant hope that it will eventually all go away. It never will. We don’t deserve it to go away. This is the millstone around The Church’s neck. It is the punishment Christ spoke of for child abusers.

  16. Michael Mahoney says:

    There is no Church dogma as far as I am aware that says the Pope has to live in Rome. They have lived in Avignon and might more profitably live elsewhere in more ordinary circumstances. Please pay attention to what I actually say, not what in your imagination I seem to say.

  17. Those of you with strong stomachs and strong faith may care to read the National Catholic Reporter’s account of the Legionaries of Christ and the late Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado. The outlines have been known for some time, but this is the first detailed account I have read. Two or three things stand out:
    Many senior members of the Vatican are as corrupt as any British member of Parliament.
    Silence and protection can be easily bought; and atrocities concealed.
    JPII was gullible to what appears to be a culpable degree.
    Benedict XVI not only appears to have been above corruption, but he grasped the situation and took firm practical action.
    See what you think.
    http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/money-paved-way-maciels-influence-vatican
    To be followed by a second part.

  18. claret says:

    Having read most of the link given, ( I had to stop before I became totally de-sensitised to the horror of it all,) I am left wondering yet again what is left to beleive in? Where is truth?
    The only certainty left is that there can be no confidence in this Pope or the whole college of Cardinals.
    The disasters go to deep for any one person or group of
    individuals to cope with. The Church is a totally unmanagable structure. It has descended into an abyss and a morass from which it can never extract itself.
    We are the ones left to carry the burden of the shame of it all.

  19. vmilner says:

    Quentin said:

    “Benedict XVI not only appears to have been above corruption, but he grasped the situation and took firm practical action.
    See what you think.”

    And yet we see another instance of the persistent problem:

    ” Two years later, as Benedict, he approved the order that Maciel abandon ministry for a ‘life of penitence and prayer.’ Maciel had ‘more than 20 but less than 100 victims,’ an unnamed Vatican official told NCR’s John Allen at the time. The congregation cited Maciel’s age in opting against a full trial.”

    Why is it taken as a given that the Vatican should be initiating investigations and making the decisions on penalties in these cases? It seems as if the mediaeval concept of ecclesiastical courts for clerical crimes is assumed to still apply in the 21st century. Surely, given evidence of such crimes, the Vatican should pass it to the civil authorities of the state where the alleged crimes were committed, and let them make the decisions on whether ‘a life of penitence of prayer’ is sufficient justice.

  20. In the Maciel case I think we need to know more facts before coming to a conclusion. What legal jurisdiction applied? If it was under the Concordat with Mussolini had a such a civil legal obligation any force?

  21. claret says:

    I stuggle to undrstand what Quentin is referring to. It looks as though advanced age is seen as a handy ‘get out of jail free card’ that can be played if complaints against a known ‘rogue cleric’ are left to drag on unresolved until the perpetrator reaches the required state of infirmity!

  22. Claret,I think (hope) you have misunderstood me. Maciel appears to be have largely been under JPII’s protection. But when Benedict came into office he took speedy action, and took various steps to get to the bottom of the matter.

  23. vmilner says:

    Quentin says:

    “In the Maciel case I think we need to know more facts before coming to a conclusion. What legal jurisdiction applied? If it was under the Concordat with Mussolini had a such a civil legal obligation any force?”

    Well, I’m making the (not unreasonable) assumption that
    the crimes occurred outside of Vatican territory – I
    suspect in Mexico or the US.

    _Some_ legal jurisdiction will have applied.

    The relevance of the Vatican’s legal relationship with said country must surely be questioned.

    In the same way that if you or I (living in the UK) had evidence of serious crimes in the U.S. or Mexico, we would be morally obliged to make our best attempt to inform the authorities there, as soon as possible (e.g. by picking up the phone), so would the Pope.

    I’m unclear why his position as head of state removes that obligation.

  24. st.joseph says:

    A late comment due to absence, to Michael Maloney-if he was referring to my post.

    Thank you for clarifying the comment in your first post. If
    you had made this clear then I wouldn’t as ‘you suggested’,
    used my imagination!

  25. st.joseph says:

    Sorry Michael for spelling your Sir name wrong twice.

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