Saturday, July 17, 2010

NEW and IMPROVED Canon (Church) Law

The former Soviet satellite Republics of Eastern Europe had some of the most enlightened and beautifully written Constitutions. However, the difficulty was that members of the Communist Party were considered the “Vanguard” of society that was leading the rest of the population forward towards Marx’s Communist utopia. Communist Party members therefore, enjoyed many special privileges in order to assist them in leading society. These ranged from better housing, medical care, to special treatment by the state legal establishment. Those wonderful Constitutions remained abstract ideals that were only selectively enforced at the discretion of the Party.

That pretty much sums up what “Canon law” is to the Catholic Church. When Cardinal Octaviani informed the late pontiff John XXIII that something the pope wanted to do was a violation of canon law, the pope quipped, “I am canon law.” The whole idea of a separate law code for the Church (clergy) distinct from the civil law goes back to a time when this was legally recognized by monarchical heads of state. There was the civil forum and the ecclesiastical forum in nations where Catholicism was the State Religion.

With the Protestant reformation, the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment in Europe, such notions became increasingly archaic. In the light of the international Cover-Up scandal that has swept over four continents, the term “archaic” becomes understatement. Consider the following article:

As part of the most significant overhaul of canon law in nine years, church officials increased the statute of limitations on abuse cases from 10 years to 20 beyond the victim's 18th birthday, with possible extensions for victims who come forward later in life.

In addition, the abuse of a "developmentally disabled" adult would be treated the same as the abuse of a minor, and the possession or distribution of child pornography was added as an official crime against church law.

"This gives a signal that we are very, very serious in our commitment to promote safe environments and to offer an adequate response to abuse," Scicluna said. "If more changes are needed, they will be made."
But David Clohessy, director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, dismissed the rules as mere "window dressing" because they do not punish bishops who protected or transferred known abusers.

"Tweaking existing church policies won't have real impact on bishops' behavior and won't make the changes that kids need to be safe," he said. [FULL STORY]

As the director of SNAP accurately points out the new code of canon law fails to punish bishops who protected or transferred, know abusers. Sadly, there will always be pedophiles, murders and rapists in society despite the best efforts of legislators and law enforcement. What is particularly disturbing about pedophile priests is that their superiors acted to cover-up the incidences of pedophilia.

Imagine if a Superintendent of a school district acted like a bishop. Imagine if he/she transferred pedophile teachers from school to school. Imagine if the Superintendent came to legal settlements with parents/guardians that required silence on the part of the victim/parents. The real scandal here is the Cover-Up, wherein supervisors (bishops/religious superiors) had knowledge of these criminal acts and failed to protect the victims. Furthermore, by covering up the crimes, they facilitated future crimes and became de facto accomplices to those crimes.

On this critical point, the hierarchy is unwilling to change anything. They are happy to throw priests to the lions; however, bishops remain immune from all consequence for what is arguably the greater offense in this tragedy. This not only constitutes a miscarriage of justice for past abuse, but it quietly encourages future abuse. As those late night ads on television say, “But wait! There’s more!”

In the above-cited article from Reuters News Service is this little gem: “U.S. Catholic bishops on Thursday (July 15) defended the Vatican's decision to include the ordination of women with the sexual abuse of children in a long-awaited revision of the church's most serious crimes.” Holy non-sequitur Batman! What does ordination of women possibly have to do with pedophilia and the Cover-Up scandal? The answer is the hierarchy, their power and their privileged position.

Sadly, they have become more concerned with adoring Christ than living out the truths he taught. They have seen the Church as an institution to be governed and guided; rather than as the prophetic voice of liberation and instrument of charity which her founder intended.


Michael Dodd said...

Would that the bishops had indeed become concerned with adoring Christ -- because then they would not let that lovely activity outrank loving activity.

Renshaw said...

I want to comment on this. After reading all of the source documentation and reading the Vatican's response to the media - it seems that it boils down to this:

A woman who is called by God to serve the People of God as a priest and a bishop who agrees with this and ordains her, both of them "violate" the sacrament of Holy Orders and incur self-excommunication as the punishment of their "crime".


a validly and licitly ordained priest who orally and anally sodomizes a nine year old boy does not "violate" the sacrament of Holy Orders, does NOT incur self-communication, etc. And depending upon the number of years that the victim waits to come forward and report this civil crime, the priest might not even face civil action.

Something is terribly wrong in this Church.

In the Kitchen With Don said...

The first thing I noticed was that there was no mention of canonical penalties for clergy who covered the sins of abusing priests/religious. No penalties for those who moved them from parish to parish or diocese to diocese or country to country, to avoid exposure to the laity or the law. Could it be because then the pope himself might face canonical censure?