Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Police and Governments adopt a new attitude towards Vatican

Last week something extraordinary occurred in Belgium.

Armed with a search warrant, police entered the archbishop's office at 10 a.m. (0800GMT) just as the country's nine bishops were starting their monthly meeting with Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, Danneels successor, who took over in January. Also present was Archbishop Giacinto Berloco, the papal nuncio to Belgium and Luxembourg. Officials said all were held for nine hours and – along with diocese staff – had to surrender their cell phones. Full Story.

Forget all of your preconceptions about the Roman Catholic Church, the Cover-Up Scandal, etc and consider for a moment that one of the individuals who had his cellular telephone seized and who was detained is an Ambassador. If this occurred with an Ambassador from any other nation, said nation would immediately protest the police action. It would be considered a serious international incident and it would be considered so by diplomatic protocol and international law. Yet, as the report states, there was no immediate reaction from the Vatican. Why?

Imagine what occurred in the moments after the police returned those cell phones. The Vatican was immediately informed by their representative. Before making any statement, they most probably had many questions for Cardinal Danneels. What information is contained on your confiscated computer? What was the nature of the documents seized? Do any of the documents that have been seized contain any information that might be damaging to the Church?

The following day the Vatican reacted vociferously to the raids.

Investigators also opened the graves of archbishops in the St. Rombouts Cathedral in Mechlin, north of Brussels, looking for possibly incriminating documents, said Jean-Marc Meilleur, spokesman for the Brussels public prosecutor. Separately, police seized the records of an independent panel investigating sexual abuse by priests, some 500 cases in all. The victims are mostly men now in their 60s and 70s. This also drew the condemnation of the Vatican, which said it regretted the violation of the confidentiality due the victims of child abuse. Full Story.

These two points of protest constitute a diversion from the main issue for the Vatican. Neither the pope, nor his bureaucrats are losing any sleep over a “violation” of the confidentiality of victims of child abuse. They are not particularly upset over the fact that two graves were inspected by police.

What is of interest in this whole incident is that fact that prosecutors and police in Belgium, a Catholic nation, are investigating the Cover-Up Scandal as a criminal matter. They are investigating the hierarchy as they would investigate anyone else. This is really, what is most disturbing to the Vatican. The rest of the world is watching and other nations might follow the precedent set by the Belgian government.

Two days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed some of those fears. Incidentally six of the nine Supreme Court Justices are Catholics.

The Supreme Court won't stop a lawsuit that accuses the Vatican of conspiring with U.S. church officials to transfer a priest from city to city despite repeated accusations that the clergyman sexually abused young people. The high court Monday refused to hear an appeal from the Vatican, a decision that allows the lawsuit to move forward. No one has ever successfully sued the Vatican over sex abuse by clergy. Sovereign immunity laws hold that a sovereign state -- including the Vatican -- is generally immune from lawsuits. The U.S. has had diplomatic relations with the Holy See since 1984. Full Story

It appears that lay Catholics, from the King of Belgium and his government to US Supreme Court Justices have little patience left for the Vatican and its role in the Cover-Up Scandal. As in the case of the abuses that prompted Martin Luther four centuries ago, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church still operates in a reactive, rather than in a proactive mode. As was the case then, they refuse to address critical issues, never mind implementing substantive change, until they are forced to do so.


Dan said...

I'm not sure what to think about this incident. I think the police action may have motives that are being missed by the reports of the incident. My "conspiracy bone" wonders if someone in authority is worried that THEY might be mentioned as a perpetrator somewhere in the reports that were confiscated.

Father Geoff said...

Dear Dan,

Napoleon once quipped that "impossible" is a word that exists only in the vocabulary of fools. The question is really one of probability.

What I find most notable about the action of the Belgian authorities is that they are dealing with the hierarchy as they would with any other citizens. The decision by the US Supreme Court mirrors that attitude. This represents a sea change for the hierarchy in its relationship with State.

In the Kitchen With Don said...

Fr. Geoff, thanks so much for commenting on this event, as I had hoped you might. I think it is very good that someone is finally starting to hold the Vatican and the hierarchy accountable, just as they would your or I, had we committed crimes such as these. Would that it had been done here in the USA a long time ago and maybe the Church wouldn't be in the crisis it is now. After what we have seen happen in the past, the church is the last institution on earth I trust to clean up their own mess. And to be honest, I don't think the Vatican honestly cares, they just don't want to be made to look bad or have it affect donations. Gotta keep that money rolling in, Benedict needs more red shoes and lacy vestments! Don

matt said...

we can expect more "reactionary" behavior as long as benedict is pope.
in the past week alone, the holy father has replaced the smart/engaging walter kasper as the interfaith tsar and has made the level-headed cardinal schoenborn eat crow. this does not bode well for my small glimmer of hope that schoenborn or someone of his ilk would be the next pope and perhaps, just perhaps, begin to re-egage the secular world that the holy father has characterized as the enemy. i feel like our church won't right itself 'til long after i'm dead. ukk...

Father Geoff said...

Dear Matt,

Non-Catholics speak of "the pope" whereas, Catholics speak of "this pope." Benedict XVI is a mortal who is 83 years old. How many insurance companies would be willing to sell him a life insurance policy?

Cardinal Schoenborn's recent comments reflect the fact that members of the college of cardinals are thinking. There will be a conclave soon. Regardless of where they stand theologically, the universal church is in a state of dire crisis. Schoenborn's comments reflect a realization on the part of papal electors to elect someone who can lead us out of this crisis.

When he was elected in 2005 Ratzinger stated as his goal the re-evangelization of Europe. By all objective criteria he has failed miserably. We are overdue for a necessary course correction.