30 November 2011

Answering the Grem: Part II

I know, I should really be talking about the six diocesan audits that came out today, but yesterday's post was too big and needed splitting, and I've been busy and rather poorly of late, so I've not had time to read them all properly yet -- insofar as I've had time, I've been too tired to plough through the documents. 

That said, just based on glancing and looking at the early reactions my general feeling about them is that if we resist the temptation to flatten out the timeline and instead look at trends, with a particular view to the question of whether the Irish dioceses have been following their own guidelines over the last fourteen years, we'll see an encouraging picture at last. It may well turn out to be the case that Cloyne was indeed by some distance the worst of the dioceses in this regard, that Ian Elliott was right to have so damned the handling of abuse in Cloyne in the so-called Elliott Report, the findings of which seem to have led to the last Papal Nuncio 'suggesting' that Magee resign.

I trust Ian Elliott on this stuff, and for all the fears that people have of whitewashes, I'm pretty sure he'd walk if his audits were interfered with or edited such that the final published versions in any real way diluted or concealed whatever he'd discovered.

That said, I'll try to talk about them in another day or two.

So, continued from yesterday...

2. Was there a Cover-Up, and if so was it locally- or centrally-directed?
I don't think it's right to speak of 'the Cover-Up' or even of 'a Cover-Up'. What there seems to have been was a tendency towards Cover-Up, and one that has manifested itself everywhere. In what was, I think, a flawed but hugely perceptive article in the Guardian in March of 2010, Andrew Brown wrote:
'Instead of one centrally ordered cover-up, there were hundreds of little local ones. They didn't require special regulations. They grew quite naturally out of the clerical culture. They worked by silence and omission rather than anything more obviously sinister. The scandal is going to be much worse as a result.'
This is terrifying, but I think Brown's right, and indeed it seems to be borne out by all the evidence we've seen, including the Irish reports. If we look at Yvonne Murphy's Dublin and Cloyne reports, for instance, we see hardly any dealings with Rome at all. Cases that manifestly ought to have been passed to Rome weren't passed there; it's not merely that the dioceses were hiding things from the State, they were hiding them from Rome too. 

What's more, when we look at the phenomenon of priests who'd been accused of abuse having been moved around in a manner akin to abusive school teachers in the American system, we find exactly the same practices at work. It tended to be the case that when abusive priests moved to a new diocese -- sometimes in other countries -- the authorities there were rarely told the truth about their new priest, and often parish priests weren't told things they ought to have been told about their new curates. There seems to have been a deep-seated culture of secrecy at work, such that information simply wasn't shared.

Why was this? I think a few factors were at work. The Dublin Report found that at least until the mid-1990s, the preoccupations of the Archdiocese of Dublin had been the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets. I think this is a fair summary, though these points need unpacking.

2 i: Unpacking Murphy's findings in the light of Irish society
I've talked in the past of how sexual abuse appears to be -- or at the very least to have been -- endemic within Irish society, such that it seems more than a quarter of Irish adults are survivors of abuse, and that almost half of those survivors had confided in people about their experiences, but not told the authorities. This means, of course, that it seems likely that hundreds of thousands of Irish people haven't reported instances of sexual abuse that they're aware of.  Back in the summer I wrote:
'Irish society does its damnedest to cover up the scourge of abuse in our country, but in most cases, I don't think it does this through malice or a cynical desire for self-preservation. I think that most people, on hearing of abuse -- especially abuse that happened long ago -- hope the problems have already been sorted out or will be sorted out, continue to trust people they've always trust, and hope that harm can be undone, sickness can be healed, and wickedness can be reformed. But of course, when we're wrong we allow abusers to continue in their wickedness, and doing so we allow them to continue ruining lives.

Mercy, hope, forgiveness, and love -- the very best qualities we have -- can actually facilitate further harm.'
Aside from how this works in families, it really shouldn't be hard to see how this would work in a clerical context:
  • A conviction that the Church mattered and was crucial to the souls of the faithful would have made it imperative to suppress knowledge of terrible deeds committed by clergy, not out of a cynical sense of self-preservation, but out of a sense that the faithful in general had to be protected from things that could cause them to lose faith in the Church. In this sense it's absolutely correct to say that the bishops were obsessed with preventing scandal; scandal is something which leads another to do evil, and driving people from the Faith would be a grave instance of such.
  • A loyal and close clerical culture that encourages priests to see each other as a 'band of brothers' could act to create a sense of denial, such that allegations weren't easily believed, or were rationalised away, or were regarded as having done minimal damage.
  • A hope that problems with one child might have been anomalous would have encouraged bishops to give priests fresh starts elsewhere, especially after counselling and therapy, things the Church tended to put a lot of faith into during the 1970s and 1980s. 
  • A belief that true forgiveness required people's records being unblemished, with people being entitled to their good name, such that information of prior offences simply wasn't shared with those who needed to know.
  • A determination to be a true community of love may well have been the most decisive factor of all, as the Church in the era after the Council strove to shed its image as a rigid, authoritarian, disciplinarian body; the days of the Inquisition were to be left far in the past, and mercy was to be the watchword of the Church.
I really do think that in most cases the Irish bishops acted in ways that they thought was for the best and did so for what they believed to be the best possible reasons. And I also believe that they were terribly, tragically, devastatingly wrong, and that their virtues combined to form the most poisonous of cocktails. And, what's more, I think these factors would have existed everywhere. We don't need to envisage a grand conspiracy directed from Rome. The simplest explanation, which is that these problems arose naturally from clerical culture, seems to be the best.

After all, as I've said, this is what people do. People don't want to believe terrible things about their spouses, their brothers, their sons, their neighbours, or their co-workers. They make excuses, and they rationalise things, and they convince themselves that whatever harm has been done is trivial and will fade with time. They hope that the problem was an aberration, perhaps an unhealthy but unique obsession, and they hope that it'll pass, perhaps of its own accord over time, and perhaps following professional help.

Remember the facts. More than a quarter of Irish adults have been abused. Half of them have told people of their abuse, but hardly anybody has officially reported it. Many thousands of people walk among us who have sexually abused children, and hardly any of them are priests.

It won't wash to say 'this is different - those are individual cases, but the Church is an institution'. We've talked about this yesterday. The Church is not an institution. Even the Irish Church isn't an institution. It is, in fact, more than 180 institutions. 

2 ii: And what about Rome?
That said, Rome's involvement needs looking at. In looking at it we need to keep in mind a number of things not least the following five documents:
  • Crimen Sollicitationis, a 1962 modification issued by Cardinal Ottaviani of a 1922 document. A badly-translated version of this appeared online in 2003, but a more accurate translation can be examined in the Holy See's own website. Primarily intended to deal with instances where priests might have used confession to solicit sex, article 73 of this -- in a section entitled 'the foulest crime' -- also covered instances where priests were accused of perpetrating gravely sinful obscene acts upon pre-adolescent children (impuberes). It's been mischaracterised by some elements in the media as proof that the Vatican directed bishops to cover-up abuse, but even Tom Doyle, one of the most outspoken critics of how abuse was handled within the Church, says it was no such thing.
  • Sacramentorum  Sanctitatis Tutela, a 2001 apostolic letter from John Paul II, article 4.1 of which reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the authority to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by priests with minors under the age of eighteen years.
  • De Delictis Gravioribus, a 2001 letter from the then Cardinal Ratzinger, updated Crimen Sollicitationes in light of the 1983 Code of Canon Law and Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela. It recognised a ten-year statute of limitation on the sacramental abuses which the CDF could investigate, but in the case of people alleging abuse it extended that statute of limitation to ten years after the eighteenth birthday. The Pope subsequently in 2002 granted the CDF the power to derogate from this limitation period on a discretionary basis.
  • Guide to understanding Basic CDF Procedures concening Sexual Abuse Allegations,  a 2010 guide, in layman's language, to how allegations are investigated at a local and a central level. It reflected not merely the rules established in 2001, but also broader and more fundamental principles of canon law.
  • Normae de Gravioribus Delictis, a 2010 revised version of De Delictis Gravioribus, which among other things introduced measures to speed up disciplinary processes and extended the statute of limitations to twenty years after the eighteenth birthday with the possibility of further discretionary extensions.
So, given these, let's start by looking at the Grem's concerns, of which there seem to be four. One concerns the role of the CDF in things, one concerns sanctions for the likes of bishops who've failed in their duties, one concerns secrecy, and one concerns cooperation with the civil law.

2 iii: The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as we all know, is the Vatican dicastery which before 1965 was known as the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office. Between 1981 and 2005 it was headed by the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who is of course now Pope.

The CDF deals primarily issues of belief; its role is the promotion and protection of Church doctrine on faith and morals, such that while its main concern seems to be ensuring that those who claim to teach on behalf of the Church actually reflect Church teaching, it also has duties regarding to things that threaten the Church in other ways, notably abuses of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, and the sexual abuse of minors, the youngest and most vulnerable members of the Church.

As we've seen, prior to 2001 Crimen Sollicitationis was at least theoretically in force, requiring bishops in certain situations to report the abuse of prepubescent children to the CDF; in 2001 the remit of the CDF was expanded greatly under Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela, such that henceforth all vaguely credible abuse allegations in connection with adolescents up to the age of 18 were to be reported to Rome.

The problem, as anyone should see from this, is that the system was and indeed is wholly dependent on abuse being reported to it.  Until recently it seemed that this just didn't happen. Monsignor Charles Scicluna, who is Promoter of Justice at the CDF and possessor of the 'gimlet eyes' of which Enda Kenny so provocatively spoke in the summer, heads a team of nine people and acts as chief prosecutor whenever abuse cases are reported to Rome. He says that between 1975 and 1985 the CDF seems not to have received even one report of child abuse.

Lest we be inclined to doubt this, it's worth thinking of what the Dublin and Cloyne inquiries have revealed, bearing in mind that the Murphy Commission accepts that the Irish dioceses had cooperated fully with its investigations, handing over all relevant documentation including communications with Rome. The Dublin Report shows that that Rome was involved in four cases in total: two of these were responses to requests by priests that they be allowed leave the priesthood, and two were appeals against decisions made by the Dublin archdiocese; in other words not even one abuse complaint had been passed on to Rome prior to 2001. Likewise, if we look at the Cloyne Report, we'll see that although Cloyne sent four cases to Rome, none of these cases were submitted prior to the issuing of the new norms in 2001. It seems, putting it bluntly, that abuse was basically never reported to Rome. Everything was mishandled at a local level.

Whatever the motivations of the Irish bishops -- and I doubt they were radically different from the motives of most Irish people in such situations -- we can't get away from the fact that the failure to report or properly handle abuse was their fault. It won't do to blame Rome for the mishandling of stuff locally. The situation on the ground was hidden from Rome, and Rome was in no position to be sending out people to find out what was going on.

2 iv: Sanctions for Inadequate Bishops
The Grem raises an interesting and important question about the bishops when he asks :
'They have had for decades an instruction to report all cases of abuse directly to the CDF. Are they all guilty of ignoring those instructions and if so what sanctions have been imposed?'
Okay, so we know it's not true that the bishops have decades been obliged to report all cases of abuse to the CDF, as that's only been the case since 2001. Still, it certainly seems to have been the case for a long time that there's been an obligation to report some cases of abuse -- those of prepubescent children, and those occurring in connection with an abuse of the Sacrament of Reconciliation -- to Rome. It seems not to have been the case that such reports were expected to be submitted, in the main, with a view to Rome handling the matter: rather, most reports would have been for information purposes only, with it being expected that the crimes would have been dealt with locally. Decisions could be appealled to Rome, of course, and cases were to be referred to Rome if it proved impossible to deal with them locally.

We all know that most cases of clerical abuse were instances where the victims were adolescents; the John Jay Study, for instance, indicates that 67.4 per cent of abuse victims in America were aged twelve or older. The vast majority of these -- unless they'd specifically reported being abused in the context of confession -- would have been outside the remit of Crimen Sollicitationis, and thus something to have been dealt with locally.

Was abuse within confession a common phenomenon? I don't know, but just looking at the Dublin and Cloyne reports, it seems that it wasn't: the Dublin report covers 46 priests, just one of whom reportedly committed abuse in connection with confession, something he seems to have regularly done; the Cloyne report itself never mentions abuse in the context of confession save with reference to an alleged victim of one 'Father B', that being the Father Duane who's twice been tried and twice been acquitted of abuse.

Still, even if only a third of abuse cases ought to have been passed on to Rome, even just for information purposes, that still suggests a widespread tendency not to pass things on, doesn't it? A widespread tendency to ignore Rome, even?

Well, it does and it doesn't. It's worth taking a depressing look at sections 13.6-11 of the Dublin Report, which describes the reactions of Archbishop McQuaid and his auxiliary, Bishop Dunne, to the discovery in 1960 that a priest of the diocese had taken obscene photographs of young girls in his care.
'Archbishop McQuaid immediately referred the case to his auxiliary bishop, Bishop Dunne. It is clear that the Archbishop was using the procedures outlined in the 1922 instruction (see Chapter 4). Bishop Dunne expressed the view that a crimen pessimum (the worst crime, which includes child sexual abuse) had been committed.'
I'm still not entirely sure what this is doing in the Dublin Report, given that it predates the remit of the report by fifteen years, but still, not the important point: Murphy believes that McQuaid and his auxiliary had in 1960 followed what must have been the 1922 procedures, assuming they were essentially the same as their 1962 version. Murphy goes on to explain how McQuaid subsequently met with the priest, Paul McGennis, and received a risibly false explanation that McQuaid accepted.
'Archbishop McQuaid and Bishop Dunne then agreed that there was not an objective and subjective crime of the type envisaged in the 1922 instruction and consequently that there was no need to refer the matter to the Holy Office in Rome.'
Murphy takes the view that this was unreasonable and contrary to common sense, and I agree, but what's important in the context of the Grem's question is this: the directive to report cases of prepubescent abuse to Rome does not appear to have been ignored, but instead appears to have been considered and found not applicable. I suspect this happened all too often, for whatever reasons.

Making matters worse would have been, I think, a huge sense of confusion in the decades after the Second Vatican Council. Yes, Cardinal Ottaviani issued a directive in 1962 that basically restated the policy from 1922, but it seems that this document -- of which only 2,000 copies were ever printed -- to have quickly become forgotten and left to moulder in diocesan libraries, at least in most dioceses. It seems that in the turmoil of the 1960s, which so much changing in the Church, this one document from a Church body that was itself replaced in 1965 was effectively lost in all the goings-on of the era, such that when it was brought to light less than a decade ago, most canon lawyers said they'd never even heard of it.

In truth, canon law itself fell out of fashion in the years after the Council such that numerous seminaries ceased teaching it altogether; many felt that the Church should be a community of love, rather than one of law, and that rules hindered the Church in spreading its message. Meanwhile, it had been accepted in Rome that a new and comprehensive code of canon law was needed, and while work was being carried out on that, the practice of canon law fell apart everywhere; old rules seemed obsolete and nobody knew what the new rules would be. When the new code was issued in 1983, it failed to cover the areas dealt with by Crimen Sollicitationis, such that it was unclear which of the most serious crimes were reserved to the CDF.

It was only in 2001, as the scale of abuse in the likes of Ireland and American became clear, that this matter was clarified.

It seems, then, that bishops weren't, as a rule, ignoring directions from Rome. Many if not most had never been aware of the directions, others felt they were inapplicable, and others still were confused by the situation. I've no doubt there'll have been a handful of bishops who knew about the directions and just didn't care, but I wouldn't like to guess at which few they'd have been.

The nearest I can get to seeing an instance of a bishop who seems to have behaved in just such a nonchalant manner is John Magee in Cloyne, who was certainly aware both of the Irish bishops' own agreed guidelines, to which he supposedly subscribed and was supposedly implementing, and  of Rome's two guiding documents on the matter from 2001.

As we know, Ian Elliott's report on the handling of abuse in Cloyne was followed in the Irish Church by a dispute over whether Magee ought to step down, which he was clearly loath to do. During the course of this debate, Magee had a meeting with the then Papal Nuncio, after which he requested that he be relieved of duty.

It really doesn't take a genius to work out what happened there.

2 v: Secrecy
One of the things the Grem homes in on is how Church investigations were conducted in absolute secrecy. Child victims of abuse, he says, were bound by an oath of silence, the same oath signed by victims in different countries. It's worth quoting here the Vatican's own chief prosecutor on the subject:
'A poor English translation of that text has led people to think that the Holy See imposed secrecy in order to hide the facts. But it was not like that. Secrecy during the preliminary phase of the investigation served to protect the good name of all the people involved; first and foremost, the victims themselves, then the accused priests who have the right – as everyone does – to the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. The Church does not like showcase justice. The norms on sexual abuse were never understood as a ban on denouncing [the crimes] to the civil authorities.'
The secrecy required in these matters -- and still required, as far as I know -- was required in order to allow witnesses to speak freely, knowing they could do so in absolute confidence, in order to protect the good name of the accused, as it's a basic principle of natural justice that suspects should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty, and to allow victims and other witnesses to come forward without exposing themselves to publicity.

It was certainly not the case that this requirement for secrecy was intended to ensure abuse wasn't tackled. On the contrary, Crimen Sollicitationis demands that victims of solicitation denounce the crime, with a failure to do so punishable by excommunication, and the oath of secrecy was only administered with regard to the trial process and not to the crime. Furthermore, the obligation to secrecy only kicked in once a case began; there was nothing to stop a bishop from reporting a crime before beginning a canonical investigation. The Church's secrecy requirement in no way blocked or blocks people from reporting crimes to civil authorities.

I would add, too, that I'm not convinced that a universal oath was required of those reporting abuse; while the 1962 Crimen Sollicitationis indeed gives the formulae for oaths to be sworn by those handling abuse cases, it does not detail what abuse victims should say.  It seems that the wording of oaths must have varied from place to place; in the case of the two teenagers whose testimony was taken by the then Father Sean Brady in 1975, they swore as follows:
'I ... hereby swear that I have told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and that I will talk to no-one about this interview except authorised priests. So help me God, and these holy Gospels I touch.'

2 vi: Co-operation with Civil Law
This leaves the question of the extent to which canon law was required to be in harmony with civil law. In connection with this, the Grem writes as follows:
'The truth is best found following the publication in 2010 of the document Understanding CDF Procedure concerning sexual abuse allegations. It stated clearly "Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed."
The statement was welcomed worldwide (despite the fact that, made by any other institution, it would have been stating the obvious).
But as so often with the Vatican all was not as it seemed. The Vatican website which carried this "news" had no papal authority. All was revealed three months later when the Pope published the "New Norms" (de gravioribus delictus) which did not impose on Bishops any duty to report child sex abuse to civil authorities. Fr. Lombardi made clear that a duty to report had been discussed - and rejected. The media and thousands of ordinary Catholics had been misled and not for the first time.'
Now, I think it's worth looking at what exactly Father Lombardi, the Pope's spokesman, said on the matter:
'One point that remains untouched, though it has often been the subject of discussion in recent times, concerns collaboration with the civil authorities. It must be borne in mind that the Norms being published today are part of the penal code of canon law, which is complete in itself and entirely distinct from the law of States.

On this subject, however, it is important to take note of the Guide to Understanding Basic CDF Procedures concerning Sexual Abuse Allegations, as published on the Holy See website. In that Guide, the phrase "Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed" is contained in the section dedicated to "Preliminary Procedures". This means that in the practice suggested by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith it is necessary to comply with the requirements of law in the various countries, and to do so in good time, not during or subsequent to the canonical trial.'
In other words, although this wasn't officially stated in either the old or the new procedures, this was expected practice. Father Lombardi most certainly did not claim that a duty to report had been discussed and rejected. Canon law assumes that civil law should be followed save in cases where to do so would be gravely immoral, and just as that had been the case prior to the issuing of the new norms, so it remained the case afterwards. The Guide said that civil law should always be followed, and Father Lombardi said this was indeed the case: so it should.

One might ask why this is but a recommendation, rather than an absolute obligation. The answer's something I said back when I outlined my Rough Guide to the Cloyne Report:
'Canon law is really just the name we give to the Church's own internal rulebook. The Church, existing throughout the world, needs a universal set of rules than can apply as effectively in Cuba and China as in Ireland and the Philippines. These rules need to take account of the fact that while freedom of religion is accepted in countries like the United States and Germany, it is seriously curtailed in countries like Saudi Arabia and North Korea. Back when the Murphy Report on the Dublin Archdiocese was issued in 2009, there was a lot of talk about canon law, but what the Murphy Report made clear was that canon law was never the problem in Dublin. The problem was that canon law wasn't applied.'
The key issue here is that canon law is universal, and needs to be universally applicable. The Church can hardly rule that civil law must always be followed, wherever the Church might be. The Catholic Church, after all, is universal: it's found everywhere in the world. A hard and fast rule on complying with the law of the land in all circumstances might work well in modern Ireland or America, but could be profoundly dangerous for all Catholics in places where the Church is threatened, and there are no shortage of such places in the modern world.

As a simple example, imagine what would happen if a Muslim family in Iran had converted to Catholicism, and that it was later found that a Catholic priest had abused a member of the family. If this were reported to the priest's bishop, ought he to pass the matter onto the authorities, knowing that were he to do so he would endanger the whole family, notably the parents who could be executed for apostasy? Ponder that a while, because that's what an absolute requirement to comply with civil law would mean.

I'm going to leave that with you for now. This post has been a monster, so I'll wrap up the rest of the response tomorrow.

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