Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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April 16, 2008


Pope Benedict XVI arrived yesterday in Washington. He has been received with widespread attention and commentary, mostly favorable, in the media. A general respect for Catholics as neighbors and for their church on the part of the American public seems to have counterbalanced any ill-feeling heritage from the abuse crisis.
B16 notably praised our secular democracy as an appropriate theater for religious freedom and activity. He expressed his sadness at the devastation wrought on children by pedophile priests and the $2 billion lost from settlements and court judgments.

But the pope made no mention of the mismanagement by many bishops in secretly transferring pedophile priests,which exponentially multiplied the injuries to so many children. And it was not the pedophiles who paid the monetary price; it was the bishops, who were deemed responsible by the courts for the harm done. They were to pay for their own failures in due diligence and responsibility. But they did not pay from their own pockets, but from the church's resources, established from the contributions of the faithful. If the faithful must ultimately pay for damages, they should have a role in that administration in order to be held responsible for its failures. That role has been consistantly denied by most bishops. There is need here for structural change.

The bishops appear to be considered by themselves and the pope as above canon law. Canon 1395 requires that an abusing priest "is to be punished". Not sent for treatment! Not secretly reassigned! Canon 1389 requires that a bishop be punished for not enforcing Canon 1395. There is no record of this Canon ever having been applied in the US to a bishop who secretly reassigned an abuser.

Another example: When a credible allegation of abuse is made against a priest, he is to be immediately removed from ministry. But that is not the case for an accused bishop. Cardinals Joseph Bernardine of Chicago and Ted McCarrick of Washington and Bishop Hubbard of Albany were the targets of allegations, later established as untrue. But none was removed from ministry before the process. The press reported that Hubbard engaged Ms. Mary Jo White, the former US Attorney in Manhattan, in his defense, paying her $600 per hour. The total cost of his defense has been estimated at $2 million. Paid by his diocese, i.e.from contributions of the faithful. This is a significant contrast with cases of accused priests.

Benedict XVI similarly seems to regard bishops as above Canon Law, since he makes no mention whatever of their well-known role involved in the damages to children and to the funds established by the faithful. This is a problem in hierarchical thinking that calls for change. It is shown by the assignment by Pope John Paul II of Cardinal Bernard Law, driven from Boston by his people and priests as the poster boy for reassigning pedophiles, as the rector of a major basilica in Rome with staff and an annual six figure salary. This kind of thinking is at the root of the abuse problem and other problems. It would be helpful for the pope to acknowledge this.

April 17, 2008
Later in the day of April 15, B16, in speaking to the US bishops, declared that the abuse crisis was "badly handled". The use of passive voice avoided any implication as to who "badly handled" the matter. The pope has, thus, not pointed to or criticized any bishop for complicity in causing damage to children or participating in the loss of $2 billion in church funds. The many bishops, who knowingly reassigned abusing clergy, remain cloaked in immunity from canon law and from papal action or disapproval.


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April 20, 2008 at 2:34 AM  

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