The Vatican stepped in it

January 18, 2011 • 12:57 pm

According to the Associated Press, there’s now proof that Vatican was complicit in covering up child abuse:

DUBLIN – A newly revealed 1997 letter from the Vatican warned Ireland’s Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police — a disclosure that victims groups described as “the smoking gun” needed to show that the Vatican enforced a worldwide culture of cover-up.

The letter, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to The Associated Press, documents the Vatican’s rejection of a 1996 Irish church initiative to begin helping police identify pedophile priests following Ireland’s first wave of publicly disclosed lawsuits.

The letter undermines persistent Vatican claims, particularly when seeking to defend itself in U.S. lawsuits, that the church in Rome never instructed local bishops to withhold evidence or suspicion of crimes from police. It instead emphasizes the church’s right to handle all child-abuse allegations, and determine punishments, in house rather than hand that power to civil authorities.

Signed by the late Archbishop Luciano Storero, Pope John Paul II’s diplomat to Ireland, the letter instructs Irish bishops that their new policy of making the reporting of suspected crimes mandatory “gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and canonical nature.”

Read more at the link.

So much for the benign nature of mainstream, non-fundamentalist faiths.  This is the governance of the Catholic Church; are people still going to assert that “regular” religion is not harmful?

59 thoughts on “The Vatican stepped in it

  1. Hands up for everyone that is surprised by this.

    Frankly, I am, but only because they didn’t get all copies of this letter destroyed.

  2. “Let’s just keep it in the family. Nobody outside the family has to know.” All abusive families are the same, no matter how big they are.

      1. But that’s not fair, we are a church of sinners for sinners didn’t you know that! and how dare you persecute us for not being perfect! It’s an outrage how you godless people attack us.

  3. Disgusting and unfortunately utterly unsurprising.

    Still, I’m wondering how much of this is due to the nature of the Roman Catholic Church as a religious organization per se, and how much is due to the inevitable failure of a human organization of that size to live up to a public committment to moral leadership and even “infallibility.”

    We don’t see many scandals of this sort among the smaller “mainstream” sects like the Quakers, and we do see it in some secular organizations. I can’t help thinking that there are specific elements in some religions (and some kinds or organizations) that make this sort of moral corruption more or less likely.

    1. We don’t see many scandals of this sort among the smaller “mainstream” sects like the Quakers

      It may be that smaller, more insular groups are better at hiding such behaviour from the outside world.

          1. In the US, the Quakers are divided. I forget the names of the groupings, but some have Meeting Houses, no separate Ministers, no order of service, no hymns in services and are generally liberal, while others have Churches, Ministers, a set order of service with hymns and an organ, and are more religiously conservative (eg putting more weight on the Bible and less on the “Inner Light”) – very hard to distinquish from, say, Methodists. Nixon was firmly in the latter camp. Even so, Quakers lobbied him ineffectually for years about Vietnam and other issues, and (if I remember correctly) he wouldn’t see them.

            Please don’t tar Quakers with the brush of Nixon.

          2. The fallacy of special pleading.
            You may note that I did not tar Quakers with the brush of Nixon.
            I merely stated two incontrovertible facts.
            T’was you who suggested a tar brush, not I.

    2. …and another would be when the organization espouses a morality that is founded on otherworldly concerns. I suspect this is the root of the problem.

    3. I’m wondering how much of this is due to the nature of the Roman Catholic Church as a religious organization per se

      Possibly nothing, or little, but the real point is, there is nothing about the nature of the Roman Catholic Church as a religious organization that stopped them from acting like ruthless self-interested self-protecting shits. Religion is supposed to do just that. It didn’t. It didn’t in spades, big time, with bells on, for decade after decade. Read the Ryan report for the church’s fragrant record in Ireland.

      1. Not only did it not stop them from acting like shits, it made it inevitable that they would act like shits.

        Their mission is “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” and no mundane consideration will ever take precedence over this.

        If the cost includes raping children amongst other crimes then that is a small price to pay as far as they are concerned. Life is short, eternity awaits – or so they claim.

      2. …there is nothing about the nature of the Roman Catholic Church as a religious organization that stopped them from acting like ruthless self-interested self-protecting shits. Religion is supposed to do just that. It didn’t.

        They will argue that “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” But if religion doesn’t make people behave better than other people, what is it good for? A pretty sick setup of people who behave worse than other people reap a heavenly reward just for what they believed while alive.

        It didn’t in spades, big time, with bells on, for decade after decade.

        Make that, for century after century – unless you blame the sexual revolution of the 60s for infecting the priesthood.

        One feature that makes the RCC particularly susceptible to this is the cycle of sin -> confession -> penance -> absolution ->sin without the residual guilt that keeps most of the rest of us from being serial anything. I’m told catholics are disproportionately represented in prison, and one of our prisons had an annual rugby match, St Bedes old boys vs the rest.

  4. [A]re people still going to assert that “regular” religion is not harmful?

    Yes, of course they are.

    It wasn’t a failing of the Church, but of the individual fallible fallen sinners in charge of certain day-to-day affairs — sinners who need help and forgiveness now more than ever.

    The revelation will probably help in some court cases. The monetary awards in those cases will help bleed the Church of some of its money and therefore power, but it’s got plenty to spare.

    But a video of Ratzinger raping a choir boy at gunpoint could come out of Wikileaks tomorrow and it would have only marginal impact on the Church’s membership and power.

    Remember, these are people who believe that Jesus literally wandered Jerusalem with his guts spilling out of his gaping chest wound, that burning plants can give great magic wand lessons, and that there used to be a magic garden with talking animals and an angry giant. Evidence and logic of any kind, even that they’re contributing members of a global child rape syndicate, is completely irrelevant.



    1. People only seem to be bothered when it is their priest or pastor that does it. I’ve met a lot of people who go to Catholic Churches lead by very liberal priests. I once went to a wedding officiated by a priest where the couple voiced their support for gay marriage… the priest seemed fine with it. That sort plurality keeps people from holding their church responsible, and keeps it from changing, since that liberalism does not float up the chain of command at all.

    2. I think that’s how the rcc will crumble, eventually secret vatican documents will make it to Wikileaks and then the fun will really start. The vatican is a just a big bureaucracy (albeit one that seems to be run by the Lost Boys gone feral) and it can’t not keep all these documents. Someone on the inside with a shred of decency will out them.

      Like you say, it won’t sway the sheeple but it will help bleed their institution dry.

    3. The monetary awards in those cases will help bleed the Church of some of its money and therefore power

      You would think so wouldn’t you but, in reality not so much. From the linked article:

      To this day, the Vatican has not endorsed any of the Irish church’s three major policy documents since 1996 on safeguarding children from clerical abuse. Irish taxpayers, rather than the church, have paid most of the euro1.5 billion ($2 billion) to more than 14,000 abuse claimants dating back to the 1940s.

  5. “Oh my dear, let us hope that it is not true. But if it is true, let us hope that it will not become generally known!”

  6. In Irish legal terms this letter is useless.
    It is not a crime in Ireland to fail to report suspected incidences of child abuse to the authorities.
    It used to be a crime but that law was quietly dropped from the statutes – this is why the head of the Irish Catholic church, Cardinal Brady, is still pontificating about how the church is the moral guide of the nation and not locked up after it emerged recently that he had compelled the child victims of serial abuser Brendan Smith to remain silent, upon threat of excommunication, rather than inform the Irish police in the 1970s.

        1. I’m not a legal bod so I can’t give you specifics but I remember the disgust of many commenters in Ireland at the realization that the Irish government had quietly changed the law in such a way that those like Brady faced no criminal sanction.

  7. What surprises me most is that priests – who presumably believe that their God is omniscient and omnipresent – who rape and/or abuse children do not appear concerned that their God must watch them doing their evil acts.

    If the Confession is their “Get out of Hell free” card then their confessor must also know…

    1. They believe that God knows about their sins, but they also believe that by going to confession they will be absolved of those same sins.
      Not only that but canon law provides an escape clause from legal justice; A priest cannot discuss matters from the confessional box once he leaves the confessional chamber. In other words if a paedophile priest confesses to his bishop in the confines of the sacrament of confession, then the bishop is obliged to ‘forgive’ the priest and to keep quiet about the confessed sins.

        1. I don’t think it is quite that contrived; in other words the abusing priests would probably not confess about the abuse at all unless their hand was forced – for instance following complaints from the family of the raped child to the superior of the abuser, his bishop.
          In that instance the abuser can ask for his confession to be heard and thus tie the hands of the bishop (under canon law he cannot break confidentiality).
          The obvious point to anyone who is not Catholic is to say “what the hell has canon law got to do with this?” If it conflicts with canon law then tough. It conflicts and canon law loses.
          That is NOT how the Catholic church sees it. Even in last years letter from Benny to the Irish church he still tried to insist that canon law must be followed. Well sorry Benny, that is exactly the problem.

        2. As far as I can make out, there is nothing to stop paedophile priests from confessing to each other.
          “…the Sacrament of Penance, which is validly administered by any validly-ordained priest or bishop having jurisdiction to absolve the penitent.”
          – the infallible Wikipedia

  8. How fucking dare anyone out there make fun of the Pope after all he has been through!

    He’s never been married, he’s never had kids.

    Many of his brothers turned out to be users, and cheaters, and now he’s going through a legal battle. All you people care about is….. raped children and making money off of him.

    HE’S A HUMAN! What you don’t realize is that the Pope is making you all this money and all you do is write a bunch of crap about him.

    He hasn’t preached in Church in years. All you people want is MORE! MORE-MORE, MORE: MORE!.

    LEAVE HIM ALONE! You are lucky he even spoke to you BASTARDS!

    When is it professional to publicly bash someone who is going through a hard time.

    Leave Pope Ratzinger Alone Please…. !
    Leave Pope Ratzinger alone!…right now!….I mean it.!

    Anyone that has a problem with him you deal with me, because he is not well right now.


  9. My children, I think you should be reminded that we have our roots deep in the 14th century when there was a divine right for the anointed (such as me)to rule over you. We are the last bastion of this medieval mindset that is sadly missing in the benighted world of godless atheistic immorality. We are above such transitory things as the law and democratic accountability and long may that last.

    Bless you all – you may kiss my ring.

  10. “It instead emphasizes the church’s right to handle all child-abuse allegations, and determine punishments, in house rather than hand that power to civil authorities.”

    Sick monsters. NO-one has that right.

  11. In addition to the awful story of Brendan Smyth, mentioned above in #8 by Sigmund, the article also mentions this sordid case:

    Storero warned that bishops who followed the Irish child-protection policy and reported a priest’s suspected crimes to police ran the risk of having their in-house punishments of the priest overturned by the Congregation for the Clergy.

    The 2009 Dublin Archdiocese report found that this actually happened in the case of Tony Walsh, one of Dublin’s most notorious pedophiles, who used his role as an Elvis impersonator in a popular “All Priests Show” to get closer to kids.

    Walsh in 1993 was kicked out of the priesthood by a secret Dublin church court — but successfully appealed the punishment to a Vatican court, which reinstated him to the priesthood in 1994. He raped a boy in a pub restroom at his grandfather’s funeral wake that year. Walsh since has received a series of prison sentences, most recently a 12-year term imposed last month. Investigators estimate he raped or molested more than 100 children.

    RE Smyth:

    …Brendan Smyth, who had raped dozens of children while the church transferred him to parishes in Dublin, Belfast, Rhode Island and North Dakota…

    …anyone care to speculate just how many people worldwide were aware of what was going on here?

  12. Something that cannot be stated strongly enough is that the Catholic Church, and indeed all religious organizations, are corporeal organizations with their power base existing entirely within this world.

    This is true if you’re a believer or an atheist. No matter what temple/church/synogague you gather in, that grouping is a corporeal agency with corporeal power to either protect or sacrifice as it sees fit. And, most will choose to protect even at the expense of people’s lives, if for no other reason than the justification of the good they do with that power.

  13. Will there be prosecutions, or is this another example of the powerful being exempt from the inconvenience of obeying the law?

  14. I’ve never understood why the vatican and the various dioceses have been allowed to obstruct investigations the way they have. The leaders of any other institution would have been up on obstruction charges long ago.

    1. That is because, when they are called to give evidence to the child abuse commission, the Papal representative is a diplomatic figure, completely protected from the need to appear by fact that he is an official of the Vatican State doing State business.
      On the other hand, the same official, when caught sending official letters telling the Irish bishops to comply with canon rather than state law, is simply an individual offering his own opinion that has nothing to do with the Vatican. It’s all rather simple when you don’t think about it.
      I noticed on the CNN report today the unremarked final line from the Vatican lawyer – a case of the devil being in the detail.
      “Current Church policy calls for such cases — learned about outside the confessional — to be reported to police, he said.”

      So, again, all abuser needs to do is to admit his crimes in the confessional and canon law applies and the police are not involved.

    2. History.
      And momentum.
      At one time, in the “Western World”, the churches were the only law.

  15. It is getting more and more difficult to have any feeling but disgust for any christian. They state that there is one christian god that they worship in different ways. The christian god is no better than a child rapist, that is what christians worship. Any decent person that was affiliated with any organization in a similar circumstance would leave it, without a further consideration.

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