Vatican Coat of Arms

Vatican Coat of Arms Wikimedia Commons

“The Holy See gets it,” said Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s former sex crimes prosecutor, in testimony yesterday before the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva. I’m not so sure.

In the Middle Ages, it would have been a big step forward for church officials to allow that clergy are subject to the criminal laws of the countries in which they reside. By the standards of today, it was an evasion for Scicluna to testify that civil courts are responsible for handling crimes by priests. When a priest is shown to be an abuser of children, the Church assumes the responsibility of taking him out of circulation, and if defrocking is required, that’s in the Vatican’s own hands. These ecclesiastical processes are themselves critical to protecting children.

So is disciplining bishops who cover up abuse cases. And that’s what the Vatican has never yet admitted by word or deed.

After his testimony, Scicluna was questioned on that score by Vatican Insider’s Gerard O’Connell:

Q.  The Committee raised many tough questions in today’s session. You were asked: given the ‘zero tolerance’ policy why were there efforts to ‘cover up’ and obscure cases of the abuse of minors by clergy?

A.  I think that ‘cover-up’, meaning the obstruction of justice, has to be addressed by the domestic laws of the countries where it happens.  It is not the policy of the Holy See.  And to the extent that it is a crime in the sovereign territories of the different countries it should be prosecuted, irrespective of whoever is guilty of the crime of the obstruction of justice.

Q.  What about the accountability of bishops? I mean what happens to bishops who fail to protect children, or cover up? Failure here has been one of the problems highlighted by many victims and their organizations. 

A. Bishops are accountable to God and to their local churches, and I think it has to be very clear under this policy of the Holy See that child protection is an integral part of pastoral stewardship.

And bishops aren’t also accountable to Rome? Given the Vatican’s readiness to punish them for doctrinal, fiscal, and indeed personal sexual misbehavior, the answer is obvious.

Meanwhile, in Vatican City Pope Francis was celebrating Mass with retired Los Angeles archbishop Cardinal Roger Mahony — second to none, not even Bernard Law, in the covering up of abuse scandals. Yes, the pope did use his homily to address the issue of the day: “But are we ashamed? So many scandals that I do not want to mention them individually, but we all know about them…But are we really all ashamed of those scandals, of those defeats of priests, bishops, laity?”

Over at Whispers, even the devoted Rocco Palmo called this exercise in collective shaming “a bomb of a Domus speech.” Mahony, who no one ever accused of lacking chutzpah, happily quoted the pope’s remarks and went on to describe his private audience as entirely concerned with the plight of migrants. No mention of the scandals to the Church’s leading scandal-monger? If Francis gets it, he’s yet to show it.

Categories: Ethics

Beliefs:

Mark Silk

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service

4 Comments

  1. Archbishop Charles Scicluna told the panel: “The Holy See gets it”—–

    Yes, they have known for decades exactly what they were doing. But they still get away with it.
    None of the popes, including Francis. have taken any decisive action to hold bishops accountable for enabling and covering up sex crimes against kids.
    Tragically the sex abuse and cover up within the church hierarchy is still going on to this day. Cardinals and bishops are still not removing accused predator clergy, and they are still not reporting to law enforcement. Their so called “zero tolerance” policy is not being followed by the bishops who created it. They don’t have to, because there is no punishment to force the bishops/cardinals to change their ways of protecting their image and the institution rather than protecting innocent kids. Until they are held accountable by outside law enforcement for their crimes against humanity, nothing will change and children are still being sexually abused within this archaic secret institution. It is becoming more clear that Pope Francis can not be counted on to remove and fire corrupt church officials. And silence is not an option anymore, it only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511, SNAPJudy@gmail.com
    (SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

  2. When I no longer have to police the Pittsburgh Diocese and the dysfunctional sex freaks, then, and only then, maybe the Vatican will get it.

    http://mikeference.blogspot.com/2013/12/red-flags.html

  3. gloria sullivan

    Of course they ” get it” they are a very cunning bunch. They want smart people who can learn their ways of ” Manipulation”‘ Nothing more, nothing less!!. A real ” spiritual person” ” gets out” as soon as they realize this. I have no sympathy for the clergy that stay in & the “Laity” says are ” still good “, NO WAY!!

  4. Lynne Newington

    It will be interesting to see how many bishops, including here in Australia who will be prepared to fall on their sword for the pope, even with their vow of Obedience some already having made their way to the exit by retiring, like rats leaving a sinking ship.

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