"Are we prepared to promote conditions in which the living contact with God can be reestablished? For our lives today have become godless to the point of complete vacuity. God is no longer with us in the conscious sense of the word. He is denied, ignored, excluded from every claim to have a part in our daily life." - Alfred Delp, S.J.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Down with legalism. Or: Why was clerical abuse never dealt with?

The wolves roamed freely.
Catholic World Report has a revealing look by Michael Kelly at the judicial commission report focusing on the findings about sexual abuse and cover-up in the Irish Church.  It seems to me the blame lies not so much on the changing cultural/sexual mores since the 1960's, but is directly related to the "Spirit of Vatican II".  As most people know, during the council and the years following, reformers bent over backwards to eliminate any sense of Catholic triumphalism which included the restraints of legalism, (rubrics, Canon Law, religious discipline, etc.), and for that matter authoritarianism as it pertained to a patriarchal hierarchy centralized in Rome. 
Failure to implement Canon Law.
The recently published reports of two separate judicial commissions have shone a light on a deep rot and corruption at the heart of Irish Catholicism. The report of the Child Abuse Commission, chaired by Justice Seán Ryan, found that sexual abuse was “endemic” in Church-run care homes and juvenile institutions. The Dublin Report, chaired by Justice Yvonne Murphy, revealed that Church leaders had put the avoidance of scandal and the reputation of the Church ahead of the needs of victims of abuse.
...  The report also notes that in Dublin “the Church authorities failed to implement most of their own canon law rules on dealing with clerical child sexual abuse.” In a vindication of the law of the universal Church, the report notes: “The commission is satisfied that Church law demanded serious penalties for clerics who abused children. In Dublin, from the 1970s onwards, this was ignored.”

The report goes on: “Canon law provides the Church authorities with a means not only of dealing with offending clergy, but also with a means of doing justice to victims, including paying compensation to them.”
Ignored, abandoned, rejected.
For David Quinn, director of the Iona Institute, the reports’ findings about canon law are crucial. “What we see in the report is a rejection of canon law by more liberal elements within the Church,” he said. “From the 1960s onwards the Church’s penal process is virtually abandoned in Dublin and a purely therapeutic approach to the issue of sexual abuse by priests is adopted.”

According to Quinn, “within liberal elements canon law began to be discredited and this has wreaked the most terrible havoc.”
His contention is backed up by the report itself. Judge Murphy notes, “Canon law, as an instrument of Church governance, declined hugely during Vatican II and in the decades immediately after it.”

“What’s clear is that an attempt to correct an excessive legalism in the Church pre-Vatican II led to an opposite extreme where the laws of the Church became so disrespected in some circles that it was impossible to enforce them,” Quinn added. - The Wolves Roamed Freely
There also was/is a strong tendency to reject anything that smacked of ultramontanism - being governed by Rome. 


  1. Methinks the "Spirit of Vatican II" mayhaps be an evil spirit, no?

  2. Something left out here is that Canon Law was promulgated anew in 1983 by Pope John Paul II. It has "teeth" in it; in fact, any priest who has abused a minor sexually is automatically suspended. And the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has systematically laicized proven abusers of minors.
    Maybe too little, too late.
    But the time frame is important here;
    Bishops were "on their own", in a sense,from the time after VII until 1983.
    And many of the Irish Bishops, sad to say, failed miserably in their responsibility to their flock.
    Jesus, mercy!
    The photo is absolutely terrifyingly spot-on!
    Thanks, Terry.

  3. An abuse scandal involving the two former Jesuits at a school in German has just surfaced. And, yep, they knew it about it.

  4. An abuse scandal involving the two former Jesuits at a school in German has just surfaced. And, yep, they knew it about it.


  5. GERMANY. I really CAN spell.

  6. Austringer12:52 PM

    Nazareth priest, even though the 1983 code of canon law now has teeth, it still cannot put a spine into the backs of bishops who won't do what canon law allows them to do. I doubt many bishops are willing to discipline or reprove their too-few priests.

    I had an experience of this myself: when my priest acted in a truly crummy fashion, I ended up appealing to the Vicar general (who then became a bishop). He was very helpful, very supportive, and even (he said) lost sleep over the situation caused by my priest's bad behavior and king-like tendencies, but in the end, not much was done. He was able to extract a letter from my priest (it took two tries), retracting one of his more outrageous claims, but in the end, he's not going to mess with a popular priest whose parish is in the black. What's a sheep or two worth, after all, in comparison to a priest who draws 'em in from all over?

    It's not about justice, really, but about weighing up the costs and benefits of doing anything. I suspect that, in Ireland, bishops ignored lots of little situations (perhaps situations like mine), which eventually paved the way, or at least became a pattern of reaction, that ultimately led to shirking their responsibilities in bigger ones.

    LarryD, I though that next year, I would go to the parish Halloween party dressed as the "Spirit of Vatican ll". I'll be carrying a pitchfork and wearing lots of red...

  7. Terry and all your readers: I have an urgent prayer request for our diocesan administrator of the Diocese of La Crosse, WI, Msgr. Richard Gilles.
    Two priests have been charged with some awful allegations: one with embezzlement, another with sexual assault.
    They are both foreign born priests working in our Diocese (not any longer, however!).
    Whether or not these allegations/charges are true are beside the point; we have no bishop right now; Msgr. Gilles has all of this to handle.
    Please remember him and our Diocese. Thank you.
    The devil is out and about...

  8. "LarryD, I though that next year, I would go to the parish Halloween party dressed as the "Spirit of Vatican ll". I'll be carrying a pitchfork and wearing lots of red..."


    Padre:Oh, when will it stop. What must this to the sacred Hearts of Mary and Jesus? I promise you that I will indeed pray. I pray now for priests,literally, every day.

  9. Austringer7:13 PM

    Nazareth Priest, I will certainly keep your administrator and your dioces in my prayers. Is this something that has been in the press?

    I will also pray that Truth will triumph here, and that the accused priests, guilty or not, be drawn close to the hearts of Jesus and His mother.

  10. Maria and Austringer: Thank you!
    Your prayers are much appreciated and needed.
    And, Austringer: I agree with the sometimes unjust handling of things from one level to another...for whatever reason, there is this "clericalism" that just strangles the authentic justice that laity are entitled to...I know this from my own experience.
    But, from the good counsel of Archbishop Raymond Burke (who helped us from the beginning of our association), if the laws of the Church are respected and allowed to stay the course, the rights of the faithful will be taken care of; maybe not right away, but eventually.
    This is the real test in these days...sometimes good people are in conflict for all kinds of everything. The Irish situation is a horrible example of how bishops/priests covered for one another; good Lord Jesus! But it is true, and people sometimes do not understand this; at that time, this was considered a "moral failure" and not a "crime"; and that will be a continual cause of contention/argument/whatever...but now it is in Canon Law a cause for "suspension" and the CDF is laicizing the proven molesters...let us move on.

  11. Padre: We also know that priests are unjustly accused. Those who have: it were better that they had not been born. We pray for all of them. And remember, where sin abounded, grace abounded MORE. My Father had a saying which I never understood until now: God is always right on time.

    How I love Bishop Raymond Burke. You know how close he was to my guiding light, Padre Hardon SJ. Did you know: there is a group of women in Chicago starting a new order: The Society of the Real Presence of Our Lord, in Chicago? Just an aside. What will the Jebbie do if/when Hardon SJ is made a Saint?

  12. Here are the two articles about the accused priests in the Diocese of La Crosse WI:
    Yes, these are public and in the news.
    Thank you for your prayers and concern.

  13. Padre: Who is minding the till at these parishes?

  14. Maria: At one of the parishes (Blessed Sacrament) there is a pastor;
    at the other, there is an appointed priest to cover the needs of the parish until another pastor is appointed (may be for a while until there is a new bishop...don't know for sure).
    The parish with the embezzlement is the parish of some of our lay members of our association; a real cross they have to bear for now.
    Thanks for your interest.

  15. Padre: This is not to call attn to myself, but I fasted today for these situations. The priest and lay associates should know that they are held in prayer by others.

  16. Maria: Thank you. I offered Holy Mass for Msgr. Gilles yesterday and he emailed me a thank you for that and all the prayers (which you are included in)...a heavy burden...but Jesus is the Lord...He is Everything.
    Somehow, all this gets sorted out.
    Thank you, again. Bless you!


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