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Emer O'Kelly, Moral Corruption and Crimine Solicitatione

Corruption in the Catholic Church

Sunday Independent, August 31 2003 By Emer O'Kelly


Sir - In last Sunday's paper Emer O'Kelly makes much of the Vatican document Crimine Solicitatione, which, she says, "threatens excommunication on any priest or lay member of the church who fails to pursue any case of criminal solicitation or molestation in the most secretive way".

Why did she add "or molestation"? Simply to add weight to her entirely false allegation that this document has anything to do with the issue of clerical child abuse. As every journalist now knows, Crimine Solicitatione applied only to cases in which a priest had used the confessional to solicit sex. As this was never the method of seduction employed by child-abusing priests, the document has virtually no relevance to that issue.

Why did Miss O'Kelly not check this before presenting your readers with a wholly distorted account of this document? Again, her column tells us - to prove her thesis - that "a lie by a cleric is the truth under canon law".

It is now Miss O'Kelly's own attachment to the truth that is in question. It wouldn't be the first time: Miss O'Kelly's relationship with the truth is like that of a car to a Donegal road - she hits it only in spots.

Sean O'Conaill, Coleraine, Co Derry, N Ireland

Faithful as Corrupt and Responsible for Abuse as the Church

Sunday Independent, August 24 2003 By Emer O'Kelly

STOP press: in the past two weeks, "new" interim guidelines for dealing with child sex abuse by Catholic priests have been sent to every diocese in Ireland by the Bishops' Conference. They include the "recommendation" that bishops report all serious allegations of child sex abuse to the civil authorities.

And some people were of the opinion that the Catholic church in Ireland had put its hands up and guaranteed to hand over child molesters to the civil authorities as long ago as 1996.

Second revelation: thanks to the tenacious and indefatigable journalist and campaigner Mary Raftery, it has now been discovered that the bodies of 155 women were exhumed from a Magdalene graveyard in north Dublin in 1993, because the singularly ill-named Sisters of Our Lady of Charity had sold the land for building development. But death certificates existed for only 75 of the women. The General Register Office issued "no-trace" forms for 34 of the women's bodies, but claimed to be unable to conduct a search for the remaining 24, due to "insufficient details". Some of those were referred to by obscene names such as "Magdalen of Lourdes" or "Magdalen of St Teresa". They had no identity save as washerwoman slaves of the nuns in whose "care" they died.

Some people will shake their heads in regret and pain once more. "Different times," they'll ruminate. "It will never happen again," they'll say, "and at least the church is now reforming its practices." Is it?

Other people, less gullible, less complicit, and less brainwashed by Catholic upbringing, never believed that the church was cleaning up its obscene act. It never will.

But this being Ireland, where all authorities still bow to the church as the ultimate in good example and behaviour, the civil authorities are too meek, too stupid, or too brainwashed to step in on behalf of their most vulnerable citizens and force these arrogant untouchables to bow to the law. There is no Garda enquiry into the crime committed when those lost women's bodies were committed to the earth (and conveniently cremated after exhumation) without registration. There is no record of how they died. Neglect? Starvation? Beaten until their brains burst?

The Holy Sisters may be hoping for some "interim guidelines" on the abuse of adults, similar to those for children. These are supposed to stem the tide of criticism until the Lynott Working Group (set up by CORI, the bishops, and the Irish Missionary Union last June) comes up with a "a Child Protection Policy for the Catholic church in Ireland". The policy, when drafted, by the way, will be "consistent with all relevant church law so as to be normative".

So let's examine what that means. We already know that legal truth and objective truth are entirely different matters from canonical truth. We already know that a lie by a cleric is the truth under canon law when its purpose is to protect the good name and authority of the church. And we know how nuns apologise when forced to it: "If hurt has been caused, we apologise." If?

In the past few weeks, we have learned something new and horrifying that explains all this. A document has come to light from 1962, under the Papacy of John XXII. It's called Crimine Solicitatione, and is 69 pages long. In essence, it threatens excommunication on any priest or lay member of the church who fails to pursue any case of criminal solicitation or molestation in "the most secretive way". Those dealing with such cases are to "be restrained by a perpetual silence". The seal of the Confessional is invoked: the perfect cover to have dark deeds hidden in perpetuo.

Any church member who opens his or her mouth is to be excommunicated.

One paragraph actually mentions the Holy Office (the Inquisition to you and me). All communications where cases of abuse are concerned "shall be made under the secret of the Holy Office". The great torturer Torquemada is alive and well and living in the pages of 20th-century Vatican legalese. Can we wonder that nuns felt free to wipe the existence of unhappy women from all memory? Or that bishops don't see any hurry in drafting a child protection policy: after all, they're talking about protecting themselves, not children, and they're very good at that already, thanks to the connivance of the subservient State.

There's been a lot of spluttering since that Vatican document's existence and content were revealed in the United States by Daniel Shea, a Texas lawyer representing victims of sexual abuse by priests. Church representatives have suggested with breathtaking lameness that nowhere does the document "forbid" the reporting to the civil authorities of cases of molestation of children by priests.

Indeed, where Ireland is concerned, the existing 1996 guidelines forced on Desmond Connell by the grubby crisis he faced have not been sanctioned by Rome. And they only "recommend" the handing over of suspects to the civil authorities. The 1962 document, however, has not merely been sanctioned; it is official church policy, and must be implemented by all Catholic authorities under threat of excommunication.

And if anybody believes, after that, that the Catholic church has the slightest intention of protecting children from predatory perverts, or give dignity in life or death to dispossessed and vulnerable adults under its sinister control, they're living in cloud cuckoo land. The church is what matters; not the children whose bodies have been violated, whose minds have been tormented, and whose lives have been haunted; not the adults institutionalised for life without having committed a crime, only to have their bodies contemptuously dumped into a nameless pit after death.

What's more, the bishops' spokeswoman Brenda Drumm, in response to a media enquiry, has confirmed the reality: "There has never been tension between the Vatican and the Irish bishops [on the issue of methods to deal with the abuse of children by priests]," she stated categorically last week. So they're all getting on like Amos and Andy, nobody worrying about victims' pain provided face is saved.

Is this finally going to be enough for ordinary people to turn on this organisation of secretive and corrupt self-servers? Is it going to be enough for the civil authorities to break free of generations of subservience and drag them into the open, into court, and into gaol? Or will Irish society continue to talk about the church authorities as though they were separate from the organisation they rule and control? Every time there is another revelation, people are shocked, horrified; they demand openness and restitution. They seem unable to make one simple connection: unless they themselves formally abandon and reject the church which is so corrupt, they are colluding in its corruption.

We still have a society in which Catholics refuse to face the illogicality of their position. They will defend local Catholic works and institutions, talking about the great work their own local curates are doing, despite the terrible deeds being perpetrated by the "institutional" church. They are incapable of seeing the objective picture: if the institutional church is corrupt, as it manifestly is through the deadly medieval secrecies and superstitions of canon law, then anyone who enters its ministry, and continues in that ministry, is supporting corruption.

Indeed, if logic is carried to the ultimate, if the people are the church, as those made uneasy by what they see around them claim, then they too are corrupt. By retaining membership, however tenuous, instead of publicly reneging on it, they are as corrupt and as responsible for the misery of every abused victim of predatory, cruel, or criminal priests and nuns as those religious are themselves.

- Emer O'Kelly