Sunday, May 30, 2010

Little Pieces

More unsurprising news.

I find it odd how, though they're always emphasizing how the priesthood is for the good of the Church and therefore "no one has a right to be ordained"...once the priest is ordained, they act like he has some sort of right to remain in the clerical state (and on the payroll) and therefore require all this "due process" to laicize him.

But I don't think any process is due in order to simply revoke something that you never had a right to have in the first place. If it's for the good of the Church, priests should be expected to accept removal whether it is "fair" or not. It is fair, by definition, even if the reasoning behind it isn't true, because you have no right to expect something that's a privilege in the first place.

I mean, people always emphasize "obedience" and the "learning to do things even when you don't like it" aspect of seminary formation. And yet, once the priests are certainly doesn't seem like they were required to "obey" their bishop when he, you know, wanted to laicize them for child molestation! When it comes to something like that, oh, then they apparently had this "right" to refuse what their bishop wanted and challenge him in canon court!

So you've really got to wonder about the priorities of this whole ridiculous system. Given that the "obedience" that so many people romanticize and extol doesn't seem to actually be invoked much in practice in many seems like it's really designed just to screen for people who will keep their heads down.

"The petition in question cannot be admitted in as much as it lacks the request of Father Campbell himself," Ratzinger wrote in a July 3, 1989, letter to Bishop Daniel Ryan of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill.


"The whole idea was that the priesthood was so sacred you couldn't kick these guys out," said the Rev. Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer who reviewed the Campbell case and who has advocated for abuse victims. "It wasn't that it wasn't possible — it was possible — but the practice had been not to accept the petition unless the priest accepted."


I fear the infliction of further pain upon the victims of his criminal activity and their families," Ryan wrote. "I fear that the diocese will suffer further pastorally and in public relations, to say nothing of greater financial damage."

Ratzinger refused, citing Vatican policy, and told the bishop to proceed with a church tribunal.


Ryan, who lives in a nursing home outside the diocese, was unable to respond to questions. He retired in 1999 under a cloud of accusations of sexual relationships with male prostitutes and at least one priest; his successor found that he had engaged in "improper sexual conduct," allegations Ryan denied.


John Paul "certainly, I would say, is more culpable than Benedict," said Lasch.

The Vatican previously accepted involuntary laicizations, but turbulence of the 1970s, in which the Catholic Church suffered a huge worldwide loss of priests, helped push John Paul to revise the policy and promulgate the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which emphasized more due process rights for priests and discouraged penal sanctions.

"It didn't have any provisions in it for involuntary laicizations," said Msgr. John Alesandro, a canon lawyer and professor at Catholic University. "But I think most canonists believed that whether it was in the Code of Canon Law or not, the pope could do it."

John Paul did not, and as the abuse crisis exploded in the Catholic Church in the United States, bishops grew frustrated.


sortacatholic said...

If anything, there should be a "tripwire" in Canon Law. A priest must be laicized if he's guilty of any sexual crime. This means conviction in a secular court of law, not a tribunal. Canon Law should also clearly state that any priest accused of sexual crime must go before a civil court and not an ecclesiastical court. The combination of civil trial and a tripwire should expedite involuntary laicization.

I have some issues with involuntary laicization of priests accused of sexual crime. I suspect that many, if not the majority, of abuse cases are legitimate. Still, false accusations happen. That's why immediate contact with civil authorities is a good tactic. All priests accused of sexual abuse will have their day in court. Those guily of crimes will automatically receive the lay state.

Of course, if an accused priest asks for laicization on his own volition he should not be denied.

Agostino Taumaturgo said...

Exactly true, nobody has the right to the priesthood, it is a privilege that God sees fit to bestow on those he wills. However, the priesthood is a privilege that once bestowed, cannot be taken away. That's the problem with laicization in a nutshell: there's no such thing.

The man can be laicized, which really only takes away the ability to represent himself as a "priest of the diocese of X.," but the bottom line is that he's still a priest and, depending on how influential he was in his parish, he can always rouse up a number of followers against the "injustice" done to him. So unless there exists a criminal conviction, then the diocese stands potential harm to the collection plate as well as to PR, especially if the guy's particularly charismatic and puts just the right spin on the story. Dioceses don't like that sort of thing, and neither does Rome, going by their track record.

The other practical problem is that if a priest is laicized and taken off the payroll, then there's no way to watch the guy or know where he'll strike next. Not that that seems a high priority or anything (again, track record), but I remember reading that in a newspaper back in '02 and thought I'd throw it out there.

What I honestly believe is that upon receiving a credible accusation, the bishop should put the priest on a leave of absence pending an investigation. If the investigation turns up that it happened, then the priest is suspended (pending laicization) and handed over to the secular arm. If a criminal conviction comes down, then the laicization paperwork is filed.

As to the "Fr. N. needs to sign it" part, well, he'll be in jail and won't be bothering anybody's kids for quite some time anyway; if he survives the prison experience at all (and those chances aren't going to be good, remember that we're talking about a child-molester in jail here), then I'd worry about how to handle that particular detail of laicization paperwork.

I'm trying to think of a paragraph that will sum up my thought, but it's not happening. . . the entire issue is just too complex to be nutshelled into less than 50,000 words.

A Sinner said...

"That's the problem with laicization in a nutshell: there's no such thing."

Well, ordained vs unordained is one thing, and of the deposit of faith. Clergy vs Lay, on the other hand, is a class-system developed in canon law around the time of Constantine that is, usually, based on ordained status or not, but which is really more a canonical category. One I'm not sure is really relevant anymore.

We can have ordained and unordained persons in the Church, that's one thing. But I don't think we need a clerical caste.

The attitude of a church that can never quite seem to cut professional ties with someone once they're a, I fear, part of the coddling, infantalizing attitude towards priests, as if they are dependent children.

Child molester or not, you should be able to fire him (even for just being ineffective). Maybe you let him retain the right to privately say Mass, or the obligation to say the Office. Maybe you totally laicize him. But they shouldn't have this right to our money forever.

Agostino Taumaturgo said...

"But they shouldn't have this right to our money forever."

This is the part where you and I agree completely. I think the problem here goes back to what I mentioned above, though, about the potential for such a priest (if he's got any charisma) to put the right spin on the story, claim an "injustice" was done to him, and then have some people follow him while he leaves the Church and does his own thing. This has the potential to affect the collection plates, membership numbers, and PR image which, in the final analysis, are the only things the current administration really cares about. No matter how much or how little we might think they care about child molesting.

Remember, you live in a "let's cover our PR image/keep money flowing in" type of administration, not a "let's get things done and nip this in the bud" type of administration, so of course the priorities are going to be backwards (which is exactly what you've been blogging about for some time now).

A Sinner said...

It is bald-facedly corrupt, and it's so infuriating how all the neocons seem to believe things are "so much better" than the Renaissance or whatever. The corruption now is just less interesting, but no less evil. What really surprised me, though, was how all these Trads (who are usually quite critical, even contemptuous, of the current administration) suddenly closed ranks and got defensive during the sex scandal also. I think because they sensed that it represents a huge threat to their beloved sexual repression...

Agostino Taumaturgo said...

"What really surprised me, though, was how all these Trads (who are usually quite critical, even contemptuous, of the current administration) suddenly closed ranks and got defensive during the sex scandal also."

Thank you for hitting this one up. Actually, this goes to the heart of me walking out on the Traditionalist movement.

Basically, Trad bishops --- sedeplenist, sedeprivationist, and sedevacantist alike --- like to brag about doing a good job of policing themselves, and "do a much better job than the Novus Ordo." For my part, I always understood this to mean that pedophiles would be blackballed. Then comes the case of Dennis McCormack.

In summer of 2009 (I think July but can't remember), Bishop McCormack was caught on a nanny-cam with a 16-year-old boy. Dead to rights, he was sentenced and is currently doing jail time. Now, when I got the phone call first telling me about this, it all seemed pretty straight-forward. But then, the E-mails I was seeing from other Trad bishops had nothing to with the "right course of action," but more with "how we can best cover our image as Traditionalist bishops."

Now at that point, I'd already been slowly breaking from my Trad friends anyway, but that was the final straw. I just got up and walked, and never looked back.

You can probably tell that this case hits close to home, since it destroyed my very last illusion about how Trad clergy oeprate. There's a [very loud!] claim to being morally superior over every man, woman, child, and puppy who has any truck whatsoever with Ratzinger and the Novus Ordo Church, but when the chips were down, the rhetoric was nothing close to what I saw happen in real life.

As for the element of sexual repression, I'm not sure whether that fits into the equation or not. I don't think so, at least not in this case. I think it was all about saving whatever PR face they could instead.

A Sinner said...

Hmm. But usually, whenever a Novus Ordo clergyman gets involved in some nonsense, the trads I know express a sort of schadenfreude or "I told you so" as if it proves what they have been saying all along about the crisis in the current church and how bad the current administration is.

But not in this case. They mainly closed ranks also. And the only explanations I can think that they knew this sort of case in particular would bring loud calls for an end to mandatory celibacy (as well as "womynpriests" and a revision of official sexual morality), and would threaten the whole structure of authoritarian clericalism that they romanticize so much. Especially given that these cases spanned both sides of the pre-VII/post-VII divide, so it was harder to blame on "modernists" (conservatives were just as likely to abuse, and traditionalists are not untainted by scandals either)...

Agostino Taumaturgo said...

"They mainly closed ranks also. And the only explanations I can think that they knew this sort of case in particular would bring loud calls for an end to mandatory celibacy (as well as "womynpriests" and a revision of official sexual morality), and would threaten the whole structure of authoritarian clericalism that they romanticize so much."
I agree with you completely here. And this is also what I consider a huge mistake on their [the Trads'] part.

There will always be people calling for married clergy, or for womynpriests, or whatever. With the sex abuse scandal, they simply found what they think of as a humungous soapbox to stand on and vent their "righteous" indignation to the people.

Now will allowing a married priesthood make the situation better? No, it won't (other denominations have married clergy and still there's molestation). The same can be said for female clergy, or for any other proposed "solution" these activists have to offer.

So instead of circling the wagons and doing PR damage control, what the Church needs to do (both Trad and NO) is clean house. Start throwing known perpetrators to the lions, denounce them publicly, and send a clear message that the Church is serious when it comes to protecting people's children. They also need to send a message --- by action, not just words --- of "We're handling our problem just fine without any of those proposed solutions. Now you tell us why those things aren't working in other churches or even in secular institutions."

We live in a time where people are sick of talk. They're sick of hearing blame placed on the gays, on the liberals, on the modernists, or on whomever. They instinctively know that that's all a bunch of BS, and they want to see blood. In fact, I would go so far as to say that need to see blood in order for the Church to get back any of her credibility on this issue. Hence, when anybody circles the wagons, the only thing they're really doing is sputtering out the "same old, same old" nonsense, and they'll only end up shooting themselves in the foot before they day is over.