Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Milwaukee Canonical Judge Speaks On What NYT Ignored

Source: Catholic Anchor Online » Setting the record straight in the case of abusive Milwaukee priest Father Lawrence Murphy

With all the smears about the Milwaukee case, isn't it odd that nobody actually sought to contact the people who took part in the case to defrock Fr. Murphy?

I find this article interesting, as it makes more clear information which seemed muddled when taken out of context (learning that it was the Rota which had the competency to oversee the case prior to 2001 was new to me)

Fr. Thomas Brundage, who was the judge [In the sense of the canonical trial… not civil prosecution] in the case of Fr. Murphy has come forward to speak about his involvement in the case.  He describes his purpose in doing so:

I will limit my comments, because of judicial oaths I have taken as a canon lawyer and as an ecclesiastical judge. However, since my name and comments in the matter of the Father Murphy case have been liberally and often inaccurately quoted in the New York Times and in more than 100 other newspapers and on-line periodicals, I feel a freedom to tell part of the story of Father Murphy’s trial from ground zero.

As I have found that the reporting on this issue has been inaccurate and poor in terms of the facts, I am also writing out of a sense of duty to the truth.

The fact that I presided over this trial and have never once been contacted by any news organization for comment speaks for itself.

My intent in the following paragraphs is to accomplish the following:

To tell the back-story of what actually happened in the Father Murphy case on the local level;

To outline the sloppy and inaccurate reporting on the Father Murphy case by the New York Times and other media outlets;

To assert that Pope Benedict XVI has done more than any other pope or bishop in history to rid the Catholic Church of the scourge of child sexual abuse and provide for those who have been injured;

To set the record straight with regards to the efforts made by the church to heal the wounds caused by clergy sexual misconduct. The Catholic Church is probably the safest place for children at this point in history.

I find it interesting to note that contrary to the claims of the NYT, Fr. Brundage considers that his own actions have been misquoted in this feeding frenzy of the media, and explicitly denies that the CDF had halted the case.  Let's look at what he says about the case.

Considering the Claims the Vatican Halted the Trial

The NYT had alleged that Fr. Murphy wrote to the Vatican and the Vatican stopped the trial.  Fr. Brundage contradicts this claim directly.

In the summer of 1998, I ordered Father Murphy to be present at a deposition at the chancery in Milwaukee. I received, soon after, a letter from his doctor that he was in frail health and could travel not more than 20 miles (Boulder Junction to Milwaukee would be about 276 miles). A week later, Father Murphy died of natural causes in a location about 100 miles from his home

So we see some falsehoods about the allegations that Fr. Murphy wrote to then Cardinal Ratzinger in January and then Ratzinger had the trial ended.  Fr. Brundage points out that in the summer of 1998, the deposition was scheduled, but Fr. Murphy's doctor said he could not travel more than 20 miles due to health… far too short a travel range to bring him to Milwaukee.

He also denies that it was the CDF that caused the trial to end.  Fr. Brundage says:

Additionally, in the documentation in a letter from Archbishop Weakland to then-secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone on August 19, 1998, Archbishop Weakland stated that he had instructed me to abate the proceedings against Father Murphy. Father Murphy, however, died two days later and the fact is that on the day that Father Murphy died, he was still the defendant in a church criminal trial. No one seems to be aware of this. Had I been asked to abate this trial, I most certainly would have insisted that an appeal be made to the supreme court of the church, or Pope John Paul II if necessary. That process would have taken months if not longer.

Notice that it was Archbishop Weakland telling the CDF that he gave the order to Fr. Brundage to abate the trial.  Also that Fr. Brundage says that when Fr. Murphy died, he was still a defendant, and that Archbishop Weakland had not told him to abate the trial.  Indeed, if the archbishop had told him to abate the trial, he would have appealed to Rome.

This is quite damning for the NYT indeed.  So much for the accusation that now Pope Benedict XVI halted this.

NYT Wrongly Attributes Documents to Fr. Brundage

I find it significant that Fr. Brundage flat out denies that the documents attributed to him were written by him.  He writes:

With regard to the inaccurate reporting on behalf of the New York Times, the Associated Press, and those that utilized these resources, first of all, I was never contacted by any of these news agencies but they felt free to quote me. Almost all of my quotes are from a document that can be found online with the correspondence between the Holy See and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. In an October 31, 1997 handwritten document, I am quoted as saying ‘odds are that this situation may very well be the most horrendous, number wise, and especially because these are physically challenged , vulnerable people. “ Also quoted is this: “Children were approached within the confessional where the question of circumcision began the solicitation.”

The problem with these statements attributed to me is that they were handwritten. The documents were not written by me and do not resemble my handwriting. The syntax is similar to what I might have said but I have no idea who wrote these statements, yet I am credited as stating them. As a college freshman at the Marquette University School of Journalism, we were told to check, recheck, and triple check our quotes if necessary. I was never contacted by anyone on this document, written by an unknown source to me. Discerning truth takes time and it is apparent that the New York Times, the Associated Press and others did not take the time to get the facts correct. [Emphasis added]

I find it rather damning that the NYT never bothered to ask any questions of the person they cited as a source.  In most places, this would be considered negligence.  If the story is so badly flawed in facts, it casts doubts on the accuracy of the whole thing.  Combined with the rejection of the idea that the CDF prevented this, the NYT seems to be either guilty of gross incompetence or malicious intent.


The story is being denied by both Rome and those involved in America.  It seems we have a problematic scenario:

  1. Certain individuals, who oppose the Church and the Pope, have created a false story.
  2. Their news organizations, through neglect or through malice gave the ok for these stories to go forward.
  3. Numerous news organizations repeated the stories of this newspaper
  4. People with a hatred of the Church took advantage of this story to promote their personal agendas.

I don't doubt some will allege some huge Church conspiracy and that Fr. Brundage is lying.  However, this requires proof… something the NYT has yet to provide.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Misrepresentation of Crimen sollicitationis

Source: Instruction on the Manner of Proceeding in Causes involving the Crime of Solicitation


Crimen sollicitationis [Hereafter referred to as CS] is the document concerning sexual solicitation in the confessional, which was in effect until the Church updated its rules in 2001, with the release of Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela.  It also concerned actual acts of abuse apart from the confessional, as evidenced in paragraphs 71-74.

There are a good deal of myths concerning this document, and considering how Pope Benedict XVI is being smeared on account of the misrepresentation of it, I figured I should take a look at the document.

A Note: The references to canon law in CS refers to the 1917 code, not the 1983 code.

The Issue of Misrepresentation

With this latest round of false accusations against the Pope, we hear much of the so-called secret document of 1962 dealing with sexual solicitation in the confessional.  Even though the translation is found on the Vatican website, we hear constantly of how some individual "discovered" it and is "making it public for the first time" with all the typewritten graphics… in English even though the document of 1962 was in Latin.  This PDF which is going around has all these supposed top secret warnings, about how nobody was to distribute it or comment on it.

Since it has been released on the Vatican website for all to see (if they bother to look), this isn't an issue.  We can read it and comment on it.  However it is how the Church interprets its own laws and not how the average reader interprets it that is relevant here.

This is the problem of course.  There are many false interpretations out there, which the Church did not sanction.  These false interpretations are not the fault of the Church however.  If, for example, someone takes my series of articles refuting the claims of an "evil Bible" and cites them as if to claim I believed the Bible was evil, I'd refute it if I was aware of the site that misrepresented me.  However, it would not be my fault I was misrepresented.

The Church is in the same situation.  The laws of the Church are what the Church understands them to be.  Many people may misinterpret (or misrepresent) what the Church teaches.  However, the Church is not to blame for these misrepresentations of what it teaches.

The Church Did Not Forbid the Reporting of Sexual Abuse to Civil Authorities

The main misrepresentation of CS seems to come from paragraph #11 which reads:

11. Since, however, in dealing with these causes, more than usual care and concern must be shown that they be treated with the utmost confidentiality, and that, once decided and the decision executed, they are covered by permanent silence (Instruction of the Holy Office, 20 February 1867, No. 14), all those persons in any way associated with the tribunal, or knowledgeable of these matters by reason of their office, are bound to observe inviolably the strictest confidentiality, commonly known as the secret of the Holy Office, in all things and with all persons, under pain of incurring automatic excommunication, ipso facto and undeclared, reserved to the sole person of the Supreme Pontiff, excluding even the Sacred Penitentiary. Ordinaries are bound by this same law ipso iure, that is, in virtue of their own office; other personnel are bound in virtue of the oath which they are always to swear before assuming their duties; and, finally, those delegated, questioned or informed outside the tribunal, are bound in virtue of the precept to be imposed on them in the letters of delegation, inquiry or information, with express mention of the secret of the Holy Office and of the aforementioned censure. (emphasis in original)

The misrepresentation is that it forbade people who were reporting abuse to file criminal charges.  This simply is not true. This document solely dealt with the canonical penalties to be given to the offender.  Rev. Scicluna of the CDF described it this way:

A bad English translation of the text made people think that the Holy See had imposed secrecy in order to hide the facts, but it wasn’t like that. Procedural secrecy served to protect the good names of everyone involved, first of all the victims themselves, and then the accused clergy, who have the same right as everyone else to the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. The Church doesn’t like to make a spectacle of justice. The canonical rule on sexual abuse, however, was never understood as a ban on reporting [crimes] to the civil authorities. [Emphasis added]

In other words, it was the procedure of the Church investigation which one was forbidden to comment on, not the abuse itself.  So if a witness was asked in a trial what one witnessed at the time of the abuse, that could be answered.  If a member of the tribunal was asked what was discussed at the tribunal that could not be answered. 

A major distinction to be sure.  Those who report CS as preventing reporting to civil authorities misrepresent the Church law.

The Responsibility of the Victim

Another misrepresentation was that there was a time limit of one month.  This was not the case.  Rather, because a person who was soliciting in the confessional was behaving in a monstrous manner, the Church would want a person to bring it forward as soon as possible.  Hence the document stating:

15. The crime of solicitation is ordinarily committed in the absence of any witnesses; consequently, lest it remain almost always hidden and unpunished with inestimable detriment to souls, it has been necessary to compel the one person usually aware of the crime, namely the penitent solicited, to reveal it by a denunciation imposed by positive law. Therefore:

16. “In accordance with the Apostolic Constitutions and specifically the Constitution of Benedict XIV Sacramentum Poenitentiae of 1 June 1741, the penitent must denounce a priest guilty of the crime of solicitation in confession to the local Ordinary or to the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office within one month; and the confessor must, by an obligation gravely binding in conscience, warn the penitent of this duty.” (Canon 904).

17. Moreover, in the light of Canon 1935, any member of the faithful can always denounce a crime of solicitation of which he or she has certain knowledge; indeed, there is an urgent duty to make such a denunciation whenever one is compelled to do so by the natural law itself, on account of danger to faith or religion, or some other impending public evil.

18. “A member of the faithful who, in violation of the (aforementioned) prescription of Canon 904, knowingly disregards the obligation to denounce within a month the person by whom he or she was solicited, incurs a reserved excommunication latae sententiae, which is not to be lifted until he or she has satisfied the obligation, or has promised seriously to do so” (Can. 2358, § 2)

In other words, if a person knew of their obligation to report this (and this would be important to report this to prevent more victims), and refused to report it, they would be guilty of enabling this priest to continue.  The person who knowingly refused to report the crime would be excommunicated until they reported it.

Kind of different than it's been portrayed isn't it?  Perhaps if this had been followed, there would have been fewer abusers.

It's like this.  If I know a person is a murderer, I have a duty to report it in order to ensure justice is done and to ensure the murderer does not target another victim.  If I know this duty and refuse to do it, I am partially to blame if, because of my silence, another suffers.

No Anonymous Accusations

Now, since the Church recognized the possibility of false denunciations, it had rules on how the act was to take place, saying:

20. Anonymous denunciations are generally to be disregarded; they may however have some corroborative value, or provide an occasion for further investigations, if particular circumstances make the accusation plausible (cf. Can. 1942, §2).

21. The obligation on the part of the penitent who has been solicited to make a denunciation does not cease as a result of a possible spontaneous confession by the soliciting confessor, or his transfer, promotion, condemnation, presumed amendment or other such reasons; it does cease, however, upon the death of the latter.

Note that even if the priest was transferred elsewhere (one of the complaints against the Church) the obligation was not lifted.

Now of course I am not going to say that all those who waited years to speak up acted in bad faith.  If one, in good faith, did not know of the obligation to speak up, they were not under the penalty.

The Obligation of the Bishop and Investigators

I do find it interesting to note that for the abuse to have taken place like this, it indicates certain priests and bishops were negligent in failing to take action.  Especially when we see the document tell us:

27. Once any denunciation has been received, the Ordinary is bound by a grave obligation to communicate it as soon as possible to the promoter of justice, who must declare in writing whether or not the specific crime of solicitation, as set forth in No. 1 above, is present in the particular case, and, if the Ordinary disagrees with this, the promoter of justice must defer the matter to the Holy Office within ten days.

In other words, if the promoter of the cause did not agree with the promoter of justice, the promoter was obligated to report this to the Holy Office [Predecessor of the CDF].  The intent of this was to prevent such cases from being kicked under the carpet.

I find this interesting.  The investigation was to determine if solicitation did in fact occur.  If both agreed it happened, the investigation began.  If the Ordinary [Bishop] and the Promoter disagreed, it was to be forwarded to the Holy Office.  Only if both agreed solicitation did not happen (#28) that it would be set aside.

In retrospect, we do see a weakness in this document of course.  If the Ordinary and the Promoter were corrupt, it could indeed mean justice blocked.  However, this was not a planned weakness, but was based on the assumption that those in authority would recognize their responsibility under God to do what was right and just.  If there was collusion, the Holy Office would not be notified of the case.  If the Ordinary and the Promoter wrongly decided the victim was untrustworthy, the Holy Office would not be notified.

This is of course tragic.  However it was not deliberate, and the Church did change the law once it became clear CS was inadequate to handle these cases.

The Church wanted Credible Allegations

We do need to keep in mind that in the confessional there was the problem of no witnesses which meant the Church needed to assess the credibility of the witnesses.  If the evidence was vague or uncertain, the records were to be kept for future reference.  If entirely unfounded, the accusations were to be destroyed (See #42 a and b).

The Ordinary was to report the conclusions of the Holy Office within ten days and the Promoter, if he thought there was a miscarriage, was to report to the Holy Office as well (see #45)  The accused also had a right to appeal (see #58)

What Happened to the Convicted?

Paragraph 61-63 tells us what is to be happened to a convicted priest:

61. “One who has committed the crime of solicitation... is to be suspended from the celebration of Mass and from the hearing of sacramental confessions and even, in view of the gravity of the crime, declared disqualified [inhabilis] from hearing them. He is to be deprived of all benefices, dignities, active and passive voice, and is to be declared disqualified [inhabilis] from all these, and in more grievous cases he is even to be subjected to reduction to the lay state [degradatio]”. Thus states Canon 2368, §1 of the Code of Canon Law.

62. For a correct practical application of this canon, when determining, in the light of Canon 2218, §1, fair and proportionate penalties against priests convicted of the crime of solicitation, the following things should be taken into particular account in evaluating the gravity of the crime, namely: the number of persons solicited and their condition – for example, if they are minors or specially consecrated to God by religious vows; the form of solicitation, especially if it might be connected with false doctrine or false mysticism; not only the formal but also the material turpitude of the acts committed, and above all the connection of the solicitation with other crimes; the duration of the immoral conduct; the repetition of the crime; recidivism following an admonition, and the obdurate malice of the solicitor.

63. Resort is to be had to the extreme penalty of reduction to the lay state – which for accused religious can be commuted to reduction to the status of a lay brother [conversus] – only when, all things considered, it appears evident that the Defendant, in the depth of his malice, has, in his abuse of the sacred ministry, with grave scandal to the faithful and harm to souls, attained such a degree of temerity and habitude, that there seems to be no hope, humanly speaking, or almost no hope, of his amendment.

The Church, believing in the possibility of redemption and repentance has to practice what it preaches of course.  However, if they believe that the defendant is unrepentant, they can indeed take strong steps.

The Responsibility of the Ordinary

Paragraphs 66-70 tell us of he obligation to report to the Holy Office that such an investigation was being made:

66. No Ordinary is ever to omit informing the Holy Office immediately upon receiving any denunciation of the crime of solicitation. If it happens to concern a priest, whether secular or religious, having residence in another territory, he is at the same time to send (as already stated above, No. 31) to the Ordinary of the place where the denounced priest currently lives or, if this is unknown, to the Holy Office, an authentic copy of the denunciation itself with the diligences carried out as fully as possible, along with appropriate information and declarations.

67. Any Ordinary who has instituted a process against any soliciting priest should not fail to inform the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, and, if the matter concerns a religious, the priest’s General Superior as well, regarding the outcome of the cause.

68. If a priest convicted of the crime of solicitation, or even merely admonished, should transfer his residence to another territory, the Ordinary a quo should immediately warn the Ordinary ad quem of the priest's record and his legal status.

69. If a priest who has been suspended in a cause of solicitation from hearing sacramental confessions, but not from sacred preaching, should go to another territory to preach, the Ordinary of that territory should be informed by his Superior, whether secular or religious, that he cannot be employed for the hearing of sacramental confessions.

70. All these official communications shall always be made under the secret of the Holy Office; and, since they are of the utmost importance for the common good of the Church, the precept to make them is binding under pain of grave sin.

This cannot be overlooked.  The document requires many things that were not followed by certain bishops.  The Holy Office must be informed.  Compare this to what Rev. Scicluna tells us:

Between 1975 and 1985, I’ve found that no report of cases of pedophilia involving clergy arrived to the attention of our congregation. [Emphasis added]

Because of this, we see that there was a problem of many bishops failing to do what they were obligated to do.

Looking At The Accusations Against the Pope In Light of This Document

This document was in effect from 1962-2001. so it would have been the document in effect with both the accusations of Munich and of Milwaukee.  At this time, it was the ordinary of the diocese the priest was a resident of who was to investigate cases.

In the Milwaukee case, the investigation concerned events which took place thirty years prior but were not reported to the CDF (successor of the Holy Office).  In the Munich case, we have incidents where the Bishop of Essen was obligated to report the charges to Rome when having the priest undergo treatment in Munich.

In neither case did now Pope Benedict XVI act against the obligations of the document.  In the Milwaukee case, we have the case of bishops of Wisconsin acting to defrock the priest thirty years after the alleged incidents (once removed from his post in 1974, Fr. Murphy did not take part in an active ministry again, though on occasion he was given a task to do).

Fr. Murphy wrote to the CDF that he had long ago repented of his acts and was not involved in active ministry.  In light of CS 61-63, one could legitimately ask whether or not this procedure now was necessary.  The Ordinary did see this as necessary and the CDF did not halt the proceedings against Fr. Murphy.  Fr. Murphy did in fact have the right to appeal to the CDF, as we see in paragraph 58.

In the Munich case, we have a priest whose prosecution was the duty of the Diocese of Essen.  Then Archbishop Ratzinger was to be informed of the case against him.  Now, we know Rev. Gruber did assign the priest to doing certain work.  This would have been against the requirements of CS.  Rev. Gruber would have been obligated to report to the Archbishop.  However, he says he did not do so.  This means the wrong was done by Rev. Gruber, not the then Archbishop Ratzinger.

Claims he did know otherwise is to be proven, not assumed.


Crimen sollicitationis has been grossly misrepresented.  It was not to keep the accusations out of the light, but to protect both the accuser and the accused from scandal until the truth was known.  It was not a document which sought to evade prosecution of the priest, but to merely deal with the canonical penalties for such an act.

With all the misinformation out there, one has to make a strong effort not to give in to the appeal of the mob and their desire for scandal.  The document recognized the problem of the false accusations.  It did require the notification of the Holy Office/CDF of these accusations.  Yet certain bishops failed in their duties.

Such people do have an obligation to justice.  As the Pope said in the case of the Irish bishops:

11. To my brother bishops

  It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse. Serious mistakes were made in responding to allegations. I recognise how difficult it was to grasp the extent and complexity of the problem, to obtain reliable information and to make the right decisions in the light of conflicting expert advice. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness. [Emphasis added]

The Church now is recognizing the failure of many bishops to do what they were required to do.  Some bishops may have erred.  Some may have been negligent.  Such cases need to be investigated.  However, it cannot be said that the document Crimen sollicitationis caused the abuse or caused it to be kept hidden.

Those who misrepresent this document or what it means are not official interpreters.  Nor do abuses or errors by some do not mean all bishops were this way.

In light of these current accusations it is the truth, not the hysteria, which needs to be studied.  False accusations of what Crimen sollicitationis required must be rejected in dealing with the current news stories.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

NYT Hit Piece III: More Charges, No Evidence

Source: Doctrine Preoccupied Benedict as Archbishop - NYTimes.com

Thus far, the NYT has not provided any evidence for its accusations against the Pope.  Now that the Milwaukee story seems to have been abandoned by the NYT for the farce it is, we continue to see more articles on the Munich case.  Unfortunately, this article contradicts the last one.  Before, they claimed that the Pope was directly responsible.  Now they claim he was negligent on account of abandoning his duties in favor of doctrine and academics.

Like the other stories, we see a claim which is made, with no facts to support it.

The Claims of this Article

This time, the NYT seeks to insinuate that then Archbishop Ratzinger was so focused on doctrine, that he ignored other issues going on in the diocese.  Seemingly recognizing the fact that he did nothing wrong, now the NYT takes the view that Archbishop Ratzinger was like all other clergy of the time:

The case is alarming, wrote the German newspaper Die Zeit last week, not “because Ratzinger was guilty of an exceptional offense.”

“It is the other way around: It is significant because the archbishop acted as probably most other dignitaries in those years,” it wrote. “In 1980 Joseph Ratzinger was part of the problem that preoccupies him today.”

Benedict was a stern disciplinarian on the issue that propelled him up the church hierarchy. An early enthusiast for reform in the Catholic Church in the early 1960s, he soon changed his mind and joined the ranks of those trying to put the brakes on the liberalizing forces unleashed by the counterculture movement.

So, again, where are the facts?  We are told that then Archbishop Ratzinger was ignoring the pastoral issues to merely focus on reactionary issues.

So right off the back, we have the fallacy of the false dilemma.  Just because now Pope Benedict XVI had dealt with serious doctrinal issues does not mean he was uninvolved with other issues.

The problem is, a focus on one thing says absolutely nothing about whether there was neglect of another.  The argument assumes he neglected issues.  That needs to be proven.  Instead we have a collection of claims which need to be proven which masquerade as proof.

The article reports:

Cardinal Ratzinger was already something of a clerical diplomat, traveling as the official representative of Pope John Paul I to Ecuador in 1978. And with two conclaves to select a new pope in 1978, it seemed at times as if the archbishop already had one foot in the Vatican.

“His predecessor as archbishop was simply more aware of the practical problems of pastoral work,” said Wolfgang Seibel, a Jesuit priest and editor of the Munich-based magazine Stimmen der Zeit from 1966 to 1998. “He didn’t have enough time to leave his mark.”

How closely he would have watched personnel decisions, especially with an administrative chief, Vicar General Gerhard Gruber, who had been in his post since 1968, is an open question. But the transfer of Father Hullermann from Essen would not have been a routine matter, experts said.

Mr. Englisch, the Vatican expert, said that transferring a problem priest was “such a difficult decision” that it would necessarily have required his opinion.

“I think the guy who handled it would have gone to his archbishop and said, ‘This case of transferring a priest is not common, and we should really have an eye on him,’ ” Mr. Englisch said. Referring to Benedict, he added, “I don’t think that he really knew the details; I don’t think he was really interested in the details.”

There are some assumptions here and some distortions.  Father Hullerman was not transferred.  He was permitted to stay at a rectory while undergoing treatment.  Rev. Gruber did not transfer him.  He assigned Hullerman to do some work at a parish while undergoing treatment.

Should Gruber have informed Archbishop Ratzinger?  Yes.  Did he?  He says he did not.

So to make this claim, the NYT needs to prove Gruber a liar.

This is a part of the problem.  The diocese of Essen (where Fr. Hullerman resided) had the responsibility to bring the case up to the Vatican.  He did not, but reported that the priest was there seeking treatment and needed a place to stay.  So here is where proof is required, not speculation.

Englisch's claims, for all the purported claims of being an expert are indeed speculation.

So we do not have a case against the pope.  We have another story of innuendo and insinuation, which seeks to give the illusion of guilt when there is no basis whatsoever to this story.

Claims that Pope Benedict XVI should have known beg the question here.  How much information was he given?  What evidence is there that he could have known?  If the Diocese of Essen only informed him there was a case of a man undergoing treatment and wanted him to stay in the rectory, then there was a limit to what was revealed.  If Gruber took it on himself to give the priest an assignment and did not tell the archbishop, how would he know?

A discovered act of untrustworthiness requires one to be wary in the future.  However, if there is no evidence of untrustworthiness, how does one reasonably discover this?

Debunking Mr. Englisch's Reasoning

Let's look at the statement again:

“I think the guy who handled it would have gone to his archbishop and said, ‘This case of transferring a priest is not common, and we should really have an eye on him,’ ” Mr. Englisch said. Referring to Benedict, he added, “I don’t think that he really knew the details; I don’t think he was really interested in the details.”

The first statement: "I think the guy who handled it would have gone to his archbishop and said, ‘This case of transferring a priest is not common, and we should really have an eye on him,’" does not mesh with the facts.  Nor does it logically follow.

Regardless of what Gruber could have done has no bearing on what he did do.  This becomes speculation on Englisch's part.  It is a claim to be proven.  Unless it is proven that it was true that the facts were given to now Pope Benedict XVI, this claim is baseless.

Also lacking is what instructions Pope Benedict XVI may have given the priest.  To say he did nothing requires us to know what he was told and what he did in response

Yet instead of prove the point, Englisch goes on to act on the assumption that his claim is true, saying, “I don’t think that he really knew the details; I don’t think he was really interested in the details.” The first part may be true if he was given a limited or a false account of what was going on, but it does not prove the second point at all.  If he found the Bishop of Essen trustworthy, If he found Rev. Gruber trustworthy, would there be a reason to question what he was told?

Yet these questions remain unasked, and until they are answered, the NYT allegations, and those of Mr. Englisch cannot stand.

The Omissions in the Story Are Interesting Too

Who is Englisch?

This article omits things which are important.  Who is this Andreas Englisch?  The NYT calls him a "Vatican Expert."  He is not well known in America, but one can find some limited information on him.  A translation of the German Wikipedia tells us he was a reporter who followed Pope John Paul II.  His beat was the Vatican, not Munich.

So the NYT is citing a reporter, which in this case is an appeal to irrelevant authority.  How the Vatican operates does not guarantee that Munich operated in the same way.

The Authority of the Article's sources

Who are cited as sources in this story?  Aside from one priest, Rev. Wilfried Sussbauer, who commented that Archbishop Ratzinger sent a letter in a tone he didn't like [irrelevant to the charge] and Rev. Thomas P. Doyle (who made a general comment on responsibility), we have Andreas Englisch (reporter and Vatican analyst based in Vatican), John L. Allen Jr (reporter and Vatican analyst based in US), Hannes Burger (reporter in Munich), Wolfgang Siebel (priest and reporter, in Munich) who comment on the story.  Of these, only the latter two could be considered close to the time, and things would depend on what they knew directly and how well they knew the archbishop.

The NYT articles contradict each other

Also interesting is how this story indicates how the NYT has conceded ground.  The claim that "The Pope did this" has been replaced with the claim "The Pope never bothered to find things out."  One claim contradicts the other.  If he was responsible, as the NYT said on the 26th, he couldn't be aloof and uninterested as the article on the 27th said.

The Archdiocese of Munich was huge

What remains of the story is exactly what was before: A priest was permitted to remain in a rectory while undergoing treatment.  Note the NYT tells us Archbishop Ratzinger was "presiding over 1,713 priests and 2.2 million Catholics."  So with 1,713 priests to watch over, is it reasonable to suppose that with the addition of priest #1714, it would be easy to keep track of him?  Would he not need to rely on subordinates who would be responsible for this?

Any organization would be obligated to do so.  Why is +Ratzinger required to be omniscient in this case?  Indeed, in an organization that large, it requires subordinates to keep their superiors informed if the superior is to make the right decisions.

It is interesting to note that the organization of the Munich archdiocese may have worked against keeping the bishop informed.  In the 1985 work, The Ratzinger Report, we see Pope Benedict XVI describe the archdiocese:

…in the Munich arch­bishopric we had 400 staff members and employees, all reg­ularly paid. Now, it is known that because of its nature every office must justify its existence by producing doc­uments, organizing meetings, planning new structures. To be sure, all had the best intentions. But it has often enough happened that the parish priests have felt more burdened than sustained by the quantity of 'auxiliaries' (page 66)

So again, it is not impossible to see that with such a large number of staff, many organizations within a diocese could have acted without informing the archbishop.  Under such a large system, a seasoned staff (Gruber had been working at the archdiocese since 1968 for example) might make decisions on their own.

See how this comes back to justifying the facts already known?  Rev. Gruber said he made a decision and did not involve the Archbishop.  With over 1700 priests and 2.2 million Catholics and 400 staff/employees, this is quite possible, and it makes the allegations of the NYT dubious to say the least.


Ultimately what this comes down to is an issue of credibility.  The NYT is acting as if it is a neutral observer reporting on a dispute within the Church.  However, the NYT is in fact making adversarial claims which need to be proven.

Given that thus far their claims do not have proof, but rather are claims that its statements are true but are abandoned for the next theory when challenged, the NYT does not have a high amount of credibility here.

What needs to be proven is that things are as the NYT claims them to be, not to claim that it might have happened this way, based on the interpretation of certain journalists.  Other interpretations which do not include negligence or deliberate acts are possible.  Investigative journalism requires the elimination of such possibilities before asserting that the Pope was guilty of doing X or Y.

Presenting an unproven allegation as true, and contradicting yourself from one story to another speak against a paper which uses it being a reliable source.  These presentations and contradictions are what the NYT is doing, so it seems to follow that the NYT does things which weaken its claim to be a reliable source.

I do not believe their claims, because frankly, they have given no evidence to justify such belief.

Cui Bono? Another NYT Smear Attempt

Source: Memo to Pope Described Transfer of Pedophile Priest - NYTimes.com,

Catholic Culture : Latest Headlines : Munich case: facts do not support link to Pope,

German archdiocese disputes pope story – This Just In - CNN.com Blogs,

Pope Benedict Transferred Paedophile? | Blogs | NCRegister.com,

VIS-Press releases,

Scandal still not enough to threaten the Pope -Times Online,

Catholic Culture : Latest Headlines : New York Times again seeks to link Pope to abuse scandal,

Cardinal Ratzinger acted powerfully against abusers, says Archbishop Vincent Nichols – Telegraph Blogs


2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.278 He becomes guilty:

- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

- of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them;279

- of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another's statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.280

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The NYT, determined to paint Pope Benedict XVI as responsible for enabling abusers now resurrects another already debunked story to try to say that one Father Hullerman, who was sent to stay on Church property while undergoing treatment for pedophilia tendencies, was knowingly released to pastoral duty with the consent of now Pope Benedict XVI.

The truth is different.  The extent of the now Pope Benedict XVI was involved was to allow a priest from another diocese to stay at a rectory while undergoing treatment.  It was Father Gruber who allowed him to help out at a parish.

It is tragic indeed that back in these days, it was widely believed that a pedophile could be cured through therapy and through moving him to another parish away from the problem.  [A common belief was the interest was in a specific target.  It was not recognized that such individuals were interested in whoever fit a fetish].

Even though Rev. Gruber admitted that it was his own authority that the priest was allowed to help at a parish [NOT release from treatment], the NYT seems determined to place the blame on the Pope.

The latest claim of the NYT is:

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope and archbishop in Munich at the time, was copied on a memo that informed him that a priest, whom he had approved sending to therapy in 1980 to overcome pedophilia, would be returned to pastoral work within days of beginning psychiatric treatment. The priest was later convicted of molesting boys in another parish.

An initial statement on the matter issued earlier this month by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising placed full responsibility for the decision to allow the priest to resume his duties on Cardinal Ratzinger’s deputy, the Rev. Gerhard Gruber. But the memo, whose existence was confirmed by two church officials, shows that the future pope not only led a meeting on Jan. 15, 1980, approving the transfer of the priest, but was also kept informed about the priest’s reassignment.

Yes.  THAT is the extent of their "evidence."  A claim that two unnamed individuals claimed such a document exists.  We do not know who these individuals are, whether or not they would be in a position to know or whether they are trustworthy, or if their recollections are accurate.  [This doesn't mean I accuse these individuals of

Let's Look At the Evidence… Hmm, wait… Let's Look For The Evidence

Let's consider some problems with the claim.  What we have is the NYT relying on the claim of two unnamed "church officials" that a memo exists which claims now Pope Benedict XVI led a meeting which approved of the priest's transfer.

The Archdiocese of Munich says this article is false, stating:

"'The article in the New York Times contains no new information beyond that which the archdiocese has already communicated concerning the then archbishop's knowledge of the situation of Father H.'

"Thus the archdiocese confirms the position, according to which the then archbishop had no knowledge of the decision to reassign Father H. to pastoral activities in a parish.

"It rejects any other version of events as mere speculation.

"The then vicar general, Msgr. Gerhard Gruber, has assumed full responsibility for his own erroneous decision to reassign Father H. to pastoral activity".

Speculation is a good word here.  The NYT is guilty of Begging the Question here, making assumptions which need to be proven and not accepted as proof.

The NYT is reporting on what it claims was in the memo with no proof that the now Pope Benedict XVI received it or read it, or even if it says what they claim.  The NYT alleges that the now Pope led the meeting returning the priest to ministry.  However, they provide no proof of it.  This is entirely conjecture based on a memo, which the NYT claims to exist but does not have.  (Unlike their debunked claims of Milwaukee where the documents they cite don't support what they claim, the NYT does not even have this memo they base their claim on to begin with).

One needs to prove what is said before making an accusation.  Yet the NYT and others have printed this story without such proof.

Cui bono? (Who Benefits?)

What strikes me in this case is that the NYT is determined to make a case with shoddy journalism with the purpose of discrediting the Pope and the Church.  Once upon a time, innuendos like this would not be even accepted by the NYT for printing.  Now the assumption is that "The Church can't be trusted, so they need to prove their innocence.  Nowadays, one merely needs to start with a headline "The Catholic Church Denies Allegations…" and this will lead people to think it is the Church which is concealing information and the allegation is already fact.

How far we have fallen from the days when before a front page story was released, the facts were solidly in place

The benefit which seems to be gained by this story is revealed by a reporter of the London Times (not to be confused with the NYT) commenting on this story.  Ruth Gledhill writes:

The latest scandal coming out of Germany is not enough to threaten the Pope or the Church. But on top of a succession of damaging revelations it can only increase the damage being done to its moral authority on the world stage.

I am inclined to believe this is the actual intent of these stories which seek to link the Pope to these abuse incidents.  Given the stand the Pope makes in favor of directing the world to Christ, denouncing immorality and relativism, it seems that some would seek to discredit him.

It seems to be working.   On the various comments on the online articles, there seems to be a common mantra: The Church can't be trusted anymore.  I see many ad hominems where the invocation of sexual abuse is made as a retort (irrelevantly) to whatever issue the Church speaks on.

Not Seeking to Hide Evils Done

I do not write this to seek to whitewash those individuals who had done abuse or tried to cover it up.  It does seem that in many cases certain bishops did attempt to kick the problem under the carpet to avoid a scandal appearing in their diocese.  That view was a terrible injustice to those who suffered.

It does seem that, in the past, recidivism was not understood well and it was believed such individuals could be "treated" and returned to the world.  We now know this view was wrong.  However, before condemning those who followed this advice in the past, one needs to assess whether it was out of kilter with the practice of the time, not whether it was out of kilter with the practice of today.

We do not fault Civil War doctors for not practicing 21st century medicine.  We don't blame doctors from the 1920s for not prescribing penicillin.  We know NOW that if this knowledge had been in existence then things would have been better.  We also recognize medicine then did what it could to save lives based on the knowledge it had.

The sexual abuse scandal is in the same predicament.  We can look back on past practices and recognize that, if what we knew now was known then, things would be different.  However it makes no sense whatsoever to claim that one should have known then what we only later learned.

Given the actions Pope Benedict XVI has taken against the sexual abuse crisis, it seems unreasonable to assume he was indifferent in the past and suddenly changed.

I think Archbishop Nichols has said it best:

What of the role of Pope Benedict? When he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he led important changes made in church law: the inclusion in canon law of internet offences against children, the extension of child abuse offences to include the sexual abuse of all under 18, the case by case waiving of the statue of limitation and the establishment of a fast-track dismissal from the clerical state for offenders. He is not an idle observer. His actions speak as well as his words.

Such actions speak against the accusation of the Pope's detractors.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Look at the Accusations Against the Pope Concerning Milwaukee

Sources: Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Boys - NYTimes.com,

The Pope and the Wisconsin sex abuse scandal: I smell a stitch-up – Telegraph Blogs,

The Vatican's DA on sex abuse: 'False and slanderous charge against the pope' | National Catholic Reporter,

CNS STORY: Vatican defends action in case of Wisconsin priest abuser,

Untangling the confusion about the Church,

A Response to Christopher Hitchens' The Great Catholic Coverup (full version with references)

Preliminary Notice:

This article is in no way seeking to claim that any people claiming abuse in this case were lying, or that their suffering was unimportant.  Rather, since the accusation was, in effect, that the Vatican refused to take action against an abuser priest, the purpose of this investigation is whether or not the Vatican did refuse to act.


There seems to be a concerted effort to distort elements of the Sexual Abuse scandal into a personal attack on the Pope which accuses him of being personally responsible for the actions which concealed the abuse of youth.  The current charge against this Pope is the claim that, when he was head of the CDF, he refused to defrock a priest guilty of sexual abuse.

There's a lot of ridiculous rhetoric out there, calling for the impeachment and arrest of the Pope.  This of course is the typical mob behavior of the internet.  There are also less drastic but equally wrong assertions that the current Pope ignored these issues.

The Problems with the Milwaukee charge:

Let's start with this example from the New York Times:

The Wisconsin case involved an American priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who worked at a renowned school for deaf children from 1950 to 1974. But it is only one of thousands of cases forwarded over decades by bishops to the Vatican office called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led from 1981 to 2005 by Cardinal Ratzinger. It is still the office that decides whether accused priests should be given full canonical trials and defrocked.

In 1996, Cardinal Ratzinger failed to respond to two letters about the case from Rembert G. Weakland, Milwaukee’s archbishop at the time. After eight months, the second in command at the doctrinal office, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, now the Vatican’s secretary of state, instructed the Wisconsin bishops to begin a secret canonical trial that could lead to Father Murphy’s dismissal.

But Cardinal Bertone halted the process after Father Murphy personally wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger protesting that he should not be put on trial because he had already repented and was in poor health and that the case was beyond the church’s own statute of limitations.

“I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood,” Father Murphy wrote near the end of his life to Cardinal Ratzinger. “I ask your kind assistance in this matter.” The files contain no response from Cardinal Ratzinger.

So let's consider some facts here.  The accused worked for the school from 1950-1974, and was accused of events from 1963-1969.  Pope Benedict XVI was made a bishop in 1977, and became head of the CDF in 1981… in other words, he was not even a bishop at the time the priest in question resigned from this school.  It was twelve years after the time of the last allegation that Pope Benedict XVI would be head of the CDF.  The allegation was brought to his desk in 1996… almost thirty years after the time of the last of the events the individual was accused of.  In 1997 we know the defrocking process had begun with permission of the CDF  In his letter (written in January 1998), the priest claimed Weakland was not following the rules in play at this time and said he repented of what he had done.  The priest died in August 1998.

The Church does not allow ex post facto either

At this time, the events were past both the time of the Church AND the state statues of limitations.  So this isn't a case of hiding the priest from criminal charges, but on how to handle the demand to defrock the priest in question.  We also know that in 2002, in response to urging of now Pope Benedict XVI, the Church brought in new rules which made it easier, not harder, to remove priests accused of these things.

This may seem like mere legalisms, but this is important.  Most nations in the world reject the concept of ex post facto laws.  A law can be reformed in response to a weakness, but one cannot apply a law passed after the investigation starts to an event which is being investigated before the new law comes into being.  You can't blame the CDF for not applying laws which came into effect in 2002 over a decision made in 1998

If the CDF Gives Permission to go Forward, How Does it Obstruct?

The interesting thing is, despite the claim that the article makes that they never heard back from the CDF, we do see in the NYT collection of letters this response, dated 5/12/97:

We have very recently received word From the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome that we have permission to prosecute this case in the Church's courts despite the fact that the time limitations have run out. Therefore, the case will proceed to a conclusion and final decision. Please be aware that this type of process is probably the most complicated procedure that we do and that "it will take some time, perhaps a year or more, to complete. Also, please be aware that we are trying. to achieve justice for all the persons involved. We will be in touch with you in the future. Sincerely,

Rev. Thomas T. Brundage Judicial Vicar Archdiocese of Milwaukee

In other words, despite the claims of stonewalling, we do have the diocese admitting the CDF did give permission to prosecute this case of removing the priest in question from the ministry in 1997.  We do have a notice that this case could take a year to resolve once it was begun.  The priest wrote to now Pope Benedict XVI (in January) and died on 8/21/1998.  So less than nine months after this appeal, the priest was dead.

It is false however to assert that because the CDF did not immediately and arbitrarily defrock the priest that nothing was done.  We see that the decision to go to trial was made in December 1997.  In a letter dated 1/6/98 the tribunal began and the priest was summoned

So despite the request from this priest to put an end to this procedure, the investigation went on.  While the NYT alleges that the CDF called for a "pastoral solution" the letter (dated 5/6/1998) indicates nothing of the sort.  It indicates that the canon in question required consideration of whether the defendant could be be brought to repentance before a juridical act took place.  Indeed we see that a letter to the CDF (May 13, 1998) reports that the point was considered and the juridical act was needed.  In a letter from 5/15/1998 saying that the priest in question would report to the tribunal on 6/30/98 to investigate. 

So the implication that now Pope Benedict XVI buried the case is spurious.  The CDF reminded the investigation of what canon law required and the investigators confirmed to the CDF that a juridical act was the only resort they had left.

Now, on 8/19/98 we see that the diocese had decided to abate the juridical process.  We can see the reason for this in a letter on the same day.  The reason for this action was the priest was dying.  This made the whole issue moot, as defrocking means forbidding the priest to practice their ministry… something they can't do when they are dead.

I found this comment from civil law of interest to help explain the abatement:

Today, the word abatement is most often used for the termination of a lawsuit because of the death of a party. Under the common law, a lawsuit abated automatically whenever a party died. This rule was considered a part of the substance of the law involved and was not merely a question of procedure. Whether the cause of action abated depended on whether or not the lawsuit was considered personal to the parties. For example, contract and property cases were thought to involve issues separate from the parties themselves. They were not personal and did not necessarily abate on the death of a party. Personal injury cases were considered personal, however, and did abate at death. These included claims not only for physical assault or negligent injuries inflicted on the body, but also for other injuries to the person—such as libel, slander, and Malicious Prosecution.

In other words, Fr. Murphy was dying and sexual abuse was personal to the people involved.  So defrocking him was a moot point at this time.

Father Murphy died two days after this letter was issued, on 8/21/98.  Contrary to the orders of the diocese that a private funeral be held, the family of the deceased held a public funeral.

With the accused dead, the case was closed on 9/28/1998.  As I said above, defrocking involves a living priest.  If the accused is dead, the case cannot go forward.

So contrary to accusations from the New York Times, there was no refusal or cover-up.  There was an investigation which would have led to the defrocking of Fr. Murphy if he had not died.  The problem was the laws in place at the time.

Since then, the CDF has made it easier to defrock an accused priest.  However one cannot arbitrarily change a law to suit a whim, so the CDF could not just remove the law which required a longer process.

There is no justification to accuse now Pope Benedict XVI.  The investigation began in 1996 and was brought to the attention of the CDF in 1997, who did not block the procedure at all.

The Failure of Dioceses to Report Prevents the CDF from Knowing of the accusations

Non-Catholics may not realize this, but we don't have Vatican spies roaming the world looking for heretics.  Generally speaking, the Church operates under the principle of Subsidiarity:

the principle that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed at a more local level.

—Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The Vatican sets the decrees all the local churches are to follow, but it is normally the bishop who carries these things out.  At this time, it was still required for cases of this nature to be referred to the Vatican.  However, Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna who works on the CDF cases investigating these things tells us:

Between 1975 and 1985, I’ve found that no report of cases of pedophilia involving clergy arrived to the attention of our congregation. However, after the promulgation of the new Code of Canon Law in 1983, there was a period of uncertainty about the list of delicta graviora reserved to the competence of this dicastery. Only with the motu proprio of 2001 was the crime of pedophilia returned to our exclusive responsibility.

In other words, if Father Murphy had been forced to resign in 1974 because of gross sexual misconduct, the diocese had a responsibility to pass this on to the CDF under the 1917 canon law, but did not.  Between 1983 and 2001 there was confusion over who had responsibility, which both explains the confusion in this case and why now Pope Benedict XVI pushed for reforms in this matter.  Msgr. Scicluna tells us that the cases since 2001 consist of:

Altogether in these nine years, 2001-2010, we’ve examined accusations that regard roughly 3,000 cases of priests, diocesan and religious, which involve offenses committed in the last fifty years.

So in 2001, the CDF began receiving cases dating back 50 years.  Indeed, the Msgr. says,

In 2003 and 2004, an avalanche of cases arrived on our desks. Many of them came from the United States, and dealt with the past. In recent years, thank God, the phenomenon is greatly reduced. For that reason, we now try to deal with the new cases in real time.

So what we seem to have is this: In America, there were many cases which were kicked under the carpet.  Once they were brought to the attention of the CDF they began to investigate.  Because there were so many cases from the past 50 years suddenly brought forth, it was certainly overwhelming.

Msgr. Scicluna tells us:

Above all from the United States, which, during the years 2003-2004, accounted for around 80 percent of the total number of cases. For 2009, however, the American share dropped to around twenty-five percent of the 223 new cases reported in the entire world. In recent years, between 2007 and 2009, the average number of cases reported to the congregation from around the world is 250. Many countries report only one or two cases. Therefore, while the diversity and the number of countries involved may be growing, the phenomenon itself is fairly limited. It’s important to remember that the total number of diocesan and religious priests in the world is around 400,000. That statistical reality doesn’t correspond to the perception created when these extremely sad cases take up the front pages of newspapers. [Emphasis added]

So of 3,000 cases, 80% of them were from bishops from the 1950s onward failing in their duty to report the cases.  In 2009 with the backlog cleared, we see there are 250+/- cases to investigate annually (it does not mean all cases are true).

So again, where is the fault of now Pope Benedict XVI?  Far from quashing a case, it seems he was seeking to try to make sure that he did justice in an investigation of a case which was at that time thirty years old when jurisdiction was not clear.

I believe that the Pope's view of these abusers can be found in his Pastoral Letter to Ireland, where he says:

7. To priests and religious who have abused children

  You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals. You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres. Those of you who are priests violated the sanctity of the sacrament of Holy Orders in which Christ makes Himself present in us and in our actions. Together with the immense harm done to victims, great damage has been done to the Church and to the public perception of the priesthood and religious life.

  I urge you to examine your conscience, take responsibility for the sins you have committed, and humbly express your sorrow. Sincere repentance opens the door to God's forgiveness and the grace of true amendment.

  By offering prayers and penances for those you have wronged, you should seek to atone personally for your actions. Christ's redeeming sacrifice has the power to forgive even the gravest of sins, and to bring forth good from even the most terrible evil. At the same time, God's justice summons us to give an account of our actions and to conceal nothing. Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God's mercy. [Emphasis added]

This is not the language of one who seeks to cover up.  This shows a strong condemnation over the evil these individuals have done, and the reminder that the guilty must atone for their evil, and submit to justice.

The NYT's Fallacy

The New York Times seems to be making an Argument from Silence fallacy.  Since the CDF under Ratzinger did not have an explicit action to immediately defrock the priest, it was assumed that the CDF chose to do nothing.  This does not logically follow.  It also implies indifference over the abuse, when an actual look at the letters show nothing of the sort.


Let's be clear on something.  What Father Murphy did was wrong and evil.  In this instance the issue was not prosecution at the state level (the statue of limitations had expired).  Nor was it the lawsuit (though it brought the case to the attention of the diocese some 30 years after the events the lawsuits concerned).  The issue was a judicial investigation as to whether Fr. Murphy should be defrocked  The Church followed their laws in order to assure that justice was done.  The accused has rights here, just as the defendant does in civil or criminal court.  So the Church cannot just decree by fiat that a priest is defrocked.  Trials do take time.  Unfortunately it took too much time in this case, but this is not the fault of Pope Benedict XVI, and indeed he pushed for a reform of these laws.

If there is blame to be given in the hierarchy it seems it falls on those who knew of the case and refused to report it to the Vatican.  If this case was known as far back as the NYT claims, and if Msgr. Scicluna tells us that betwen 1975 and 1985 the number of cases submitted to the CDF was zero, it demonstrates a failure to report Fr. Murphy so justice could be done.

However, the fault of the individual in America does not become the fault of the Vatican.  It appears that until 1996, the CDF had no knowledge of it, and once it did learn, it sought to permit the juridical acts to occur.

This is quite the opposite of the accusation the NYT makes that the Vatican "declined" to defrock a priest who was an abuser.

Recommended Article: Bishop Martino on Authority

Untangling the confusion about the Church

There's been a lot of nonsense about certain people claiming that Obama Care was compatible with Church teaching.  Here we have Bishop Martino on the issue.

Most notable is his comments on those who claim to speak in the name of the Church:

I cannot pass over the actions of the Catholic Health Association and an organization called Network, a lobby of American religious Sisters, who said, quite publicly, that what the bishops have taught is false. They said that the legislation does provide an adequate framework for a Catholic to follow his or her conscience about abortion. So, we had a trade organization — the Catholic Health Association — which calls itself “Catholic” and we had religious Sisters who call themselves Catholic, saying, “Sorry, bishops, you got it wrong, here is the teaching of the Church.”

The Lord Jesus Christ, unworthy though the bishops are, called the bishops to lead the people in faith; He did not call anybody in the Catholic Health Association and he did not call any of the Sisters in Network. To boot, those Sisters who signed the Network document said that they speak for 59,000 American Sisters — that would be every last Sister in the U.S. Yet, another grouping of Sisters came out publicly expressing their disagreement with Network. Unfortunately, the claim that these Sisters in Network represent all Sisters is actually what is false, not the teaching of the bishops.

And, of course, people like Speaker Pelosi could not do enough to wave the letter from the Catholic Health Association and the letter from Network to provide cover for Democratic legislators who wanted to waffle in protecting innocent human life. Speaker Pelosi is not called by Jesus Christ to lead the Catholic faithful, any more than the religious Sisters in Network are, any more than the leadership of the Catholic Health Association is.

The bishops are called to teach, sanctify, and govern. But, as I said before, with regard to the Holy Father, if people will not recognize authority, then they cannot lay responsibility at the feet of those to whom they are disobedient. The pope and the bishops are only responsible when their authority is accepted. The then-Cardinal Ratzinger himself has said, in our contemporary world, the word “obedience” has disappeared from our vocabulary and the reality of obedience has been anathematized.

The CHA, the Sisters in Network, Pelosi, Stupak and others who claim their actions are in accord with Church teaching while the Bishops are not are in gross error.  Whether or not one believes in the claims of the Catholic Church, it is reasonable to expect one to understand that the one who has authority to teach in the Church is the Bishop, as successor to the Apostles, and not to whatever politician or dissenting Catholic comes across.

Sure, Pelosi, Stupak and others have the ability to disagree if they choose.  However, they don't have the right to call their opinions Catholic Teaching.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

For What It's Worth: Text of Obama's Executive Order

I'll admit I was surprised that the Executive Order was actually released. So here it is.

Document can be found HERE in PDF format for those who want it straight from the source.  For those who just want to read it, I have the text below.

Keep in mind this is a straight OCR scan of the PDF with only page numbers removed and "continued" or "more" or "next page" removed.  Funny line breaks are on account of this.  The text is as follows:

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 24, 2010



By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" (Public Law 111-148), I hereby order as follows:

Section. 1. Policy. Following the recent enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the "Act"), it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), consistent with a longstanding Federal statutory restriction that is commonly known as the Hyde Amendment. The purpose of this order is to establish a comprehensive, Government-wide set of policies and procedures to achieve this goal and to make certain that all relevant actors -- Federal officials, State officials (including insurance regulators) and health care providers -- are aware of their responsibilities, new and old.

The Act maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly created health insurance exchanges. Under the Act, longstanding Federal laws to protect conscience (such as the Church Amendment, 42 U.S.C. 300a-7, and the Weldon Amendment, section 508(d)(1) of Public Law 111-8) remain intact and new protections prohibit discrimination against health care facilities and health care providers because of an unwillingness to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.

Numerous executive agencies have a role in ensuring that these restrictions are enforced, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Office of Personnel Management.

Sec. 2. Strict Compliance with Prohibitions on Abortion Funding in Health Insurance Exchanges. The Act specifically prohibits the use of tax credits and cost-sharing reduction payments to pay for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered) in the health insurance exchanges that will be operational in 2014. The Act also imposes strict payment and accounting requirements to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services

in exchange plans (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered) and requires State health insurance commissioners to ensure that exchange plan funds are segregated by insurance companies in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, OMB funds management circulars, and accounting guidance provided by the Government Accountability Office.

I hereby direct the Director of the OMB and the Secretary of HHS to develop, within 180 days of the date of this order, a model set of segregation guidelines for State health insurance commissioners to use when determining whether exchange plans are complying with the Act's segregation requirements, established in section 1303 of the Act, for enrollees receiving Federal financial assistance. The guidelines shall also offer technical information that States should follow to conduct independent regular audits of insurance companies that participate in the health insurance exchanges. In developing these model guidelines, the Director of the OMB and the Secretary of HHS shall consult with executive agencies and offices that have relevant expertise in accounting principles, including, but not limited to, the Department of the Treasury, and with the Government Accountability Office. Upon completion of those model guidelines, the Secretary of HHS should promptly initiate a rulemaking to issue regulations, which will have the force of law, to interpret the Act's segregation requirements, and shall provide guidance to State health insurance commissioners on how to comply with the model guidelines.

Sec. 3. Community Health Center Program. The Act establishes a new Community Health Center (CHC) Fund within HHS, which provides additional Federal funds for the community health center program. Existing law prohibits these centers from using Federal funds to provide abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), as a result of both the Hyde Amendment and longstanding regulations containing the Hyde language. Under the Act, the Hyde language shall apply to the authorization and appropriations of funds for Community Health Centers under section 10503 and all other relevant provisions. I hereby direct the Secretary of HHS to ensure that program administrators and recipients of Federal funds are aware of and comply with the limitations on abortion services imposed on CHCs by existing law. Such actions should include, but are not limited to, updating Grant Policy Statements that accompany CHC grants and issuing new interpretive rules.

Sec. 4. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect: (i) authority granted by law or Presidential directive to an agency, or the head thereof; or (ii) functions of the Director of the OMB relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees or agents, or any other person.


THE WHITE HOUSE, March 24, 2010.

# # #

So, about six months to enact models for these policies.  No mention of what happens if they fail to do so.  Pretty vague though, and of course the Hyde Amendment has to be renewed every year.  Two potential pitfalls here.  I'll hold off speculating however and wait for commentary from knowledgeable sources.

Stupak de facto Rejects Church Authority and Accuses Bishops of Hypocrisy

Sources: Stupak: Pope doesn't control Catholic lawmakers - Water Cooler - Washington Times,

Stupak Calls Pro-Lifers Hypocrites | Blogs | NCRegister.com,

Stupak says Catholic bishops and pro-life groups hypocrites for condemning health-care vote | The Daily Caller - Breaking News, Opinion, Research, and Entertainment

Stupak had a chance to choose between his faith and his party alliances.  His comments in the post vote fallout show he has made his choice… in favor of his party.  To defend his vote for Health Care against the teachings of the Bishops and the Pope, he has in effect denied their authority to teach what sort of behavior is moral.

Stupak on the Pope's Authority

Let's start with Stupak and his answering of questions on the authority of the Pope.  When questioned in an interview, Stupak demonstrated a gross misunderstanding of things:

PICKET: Do you believe in the primacy of the Pope over in Rome?

STUPAK: Do I believe in the primacy…can you explain that to me?

PICKET: Well considering the Vatican have in terms of the Catholic religion…

STUPAK: The Pope and the Catholic faith does not control Catholic legislators. We must vote reflective of our districts and our beliefs. When I vote pro-life, it happens to be my own personal belief, also my district’s beliefs and the nation's. As the polls show 61 percent of the American people believe we should not use public funds to pay for abortion. I agree with that.

Stupak displays the logical error of equivocation here.  Now it is true that the Pope does not dictate to the politician how to vote.  However, Stupak is bound to carry out his task as a political leader by applying Church teaching to how he views the issue.  If abortion is wrong, then one is not allowed to enable this wrong.  This includes not only the direct voting for abortion rights (formal cooperation) but also making the act of evil possible (material cooperation).

Given the Bishops of the United States had condemned the Senate Bill as being unacceptable, and denounced the option for the "Executive Order" as being inadequate, Stupak cannot claim he did not know that the magisterium of the Church had spoken out against the action he did set out to do.

Stupak on the Bishops

They say the first step to getting out of a hole you have put yourself into is to stop digging.  Stupak, however, seems to have increased the vigor of his shovel based trip to China by attacking the Bishops for hypocrisy.  He has said:

“The [National] Right to Life and the bishops, in 2007 when George Bush signed the executive order on embryonic stem cell research, they all applauded the executive order,” Stupak said in an interview with The Daily Caller.

“The Democratic Congress passed [a bill] saying we’ll do embryonic stem cell research. Bush vetoed it in 2007. That same day he issued an executive order saying we will not do it, and all these groups applauded that he protected life,” Stupak said.

“So now President Obama’s going to sign an executive order protecting life and everyone’s condemning it. The hypocrisy is great,” he said.

Stupak is guilty of the fallacy of the false analogy here [In that the conditions are not the same] and of a Straw Man [the opposition is not to an Executive Order in general, but is based on the lack of protections it will provide compared to law in this situation]. 

In 2007, Bush not only vetoed the embryonic stem cell research, but he also deepened those protections with an executive order.  In contrast, the health care bill does not protect life or conscience, but depends on an executive order which can be overturned (if Obama decides to do so.  Remember Obama's overturning of the Bush Conscience protection and his promise to create a "better" one?  It's been almost a year since he said that…) at any time or ruled unconstitutional, to supposedly do what the Bill will not. 

Jimmy Atkin points out:

To my mind, the addle-headedness of his [Stupak's] comments is great.

President Bush, for all his flaws, vetoed a Bad Bill and then issued an executive order to further protect unborn life.

What Stupak did was vote for a Bad Bill with only a hope that the next pro-abort president (or even Obama himself, or the courts) won’t void the executive order he got in exchange for his vote.

Whatever else, Mr. Stupak does not seem gifted in finding good analogies to back up his charges of hypocrisy.

(emphasis in original)

There is no hypocrisy on the part of the Bishops here.  The Bishops opposed the bill which Bush vetoed.  Bush also created an executive order to prevent evasions.  Stupak voted for a bill the Bishops condemned as contrary to Catholic moral teachings, and relied on the promise of Obama to pass an executive order, when his record on keeping such promises are poor.


Stupak, in denying the Church can judge his actions as immoral, has in effect denied Magisterial authority over his actions.  He may oppose abortion of course.  However, in his responsibility in passing the bill (which passed 219-212.  If he and his bloc had voted against it, it seems this bill would have failed 215-216) he does have to answer for his defiance of casting a vote which enabled policies.

Stupak may have been guilty of a deliberate sell out, or he may have merely been misguided in his trust of Obama (now that the Bill is passed, will Obama keep his promise, and if so in what form?).  However, he is wrong in his accusing the bishops and pro-life groups of hypocrisy.

The whole things smells of excuses on the part of Stupak.  Whether to justify it to his constituents or to justify it to his own conscience, he has done wrong, setting his religious beliefs aside in favor of a party platform.

We will now have to see what Obama does with this.  It is not impossible he will keep his promise to issue an executive order, but his track record is not good.  If Obama fails to keep his promise or passes an executive order which falls short of what is needed to protect life, Stupak will have to share the blame.

Monday, March 22, 2010

All For The Want of a Horseshoe Nail: The Scapegoating Begins

Source: Bishops Share The Blame | Blogs | NCRegister.com

[Disclosure: This article is an expansion of a response I wrote on another blog]

Let the Blames Begin…

For better or worse, health care has passed.  I believe it is for the worse of course.  Not because I oppose a reform of the system we have, but because it is a "reform" which makes legal things which must be condemned and opposed as evil.  What I find tragic however is to see that instead of a unified front to challenge the evils, we are now seeing infighting among the Christians, pointing fingers.  Among Catholics, this is shown as pointing fingers at "The Bishops."

The problem I have with the Register's assessment, in saying…

Again, while the Bishops have acquitted themselves well through this process recently, they cannot ignore the past.

The hard truth is that for years the Bishops have allied themselves with the pro-abort party in matters related to health-care, and now they claim 11th hour betrayal.

When you hang out with thieves, you shouldn’t be surprised when you get robbed.

Moreover, the Bishops silence for years in the face of pro-abortion Catholic politicians has given aid and comfort to those who seek the death of children.  The Bishop’s unwillingness, with some obvious exceptions, to effectively address or discipline pro-abort Catholic politicians allowed for the Democrats to portray the Church as divided on the issue.  They have also allowed a culture of dissent to flourish for decades that culminated in the shameful last minute endorsement by a group of radical nuns that seriously hurt the cause of life.

The bishops’ decades long collective silence on these issues allowed for this culture to develop and has resulted in the USCCB being understandably criticized as an extension of the Democrat party (the Democrat party at prayer they say).  This is the horrible result of that ungodly alliance.

…is that while many bishops may not have saw the danger at the time, they certainly stood strong during this Health Care debate.  I was never in any doubt that the USCCB opposed the Senate Bill from the time it was originally created, so I disagree with the "11th hour" claim.

Reflections on the American Bishops

Yes, American bishops had been weak for decades.  For that matter, German Bishops prior to 1517 were also weak in enforcing discipline in the Church, leading to the abuses that Luther opposed.  Does that mean the bishops after this time were to blame as they sought to repair the damage done?  Whatever happened in the past is past.  As Catholics, we believe that people can repent and begin working for the truth.  Many of those bishops responsible for the silence of the 80s and 90s are retired or deceased.  Many of those who remain seem to have been strongly encouraged when Pope Benedict XVI visited America and began speaking out.

Remote Cause vs. Immediate Cause

This is the confusing a remote cause with an immediate cause, like the old poem:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail

Often (mis)interpreted as saying small things lead to big losses.  However, one has to assess how far back one can reasonably assign blame.  Is it reasonable to say because one nail was missing, the kingdom was lost?  Or is it more reasonable to assign blame to a failure to prepare for contingencies?

Did certain bishops back in the 1980s and 1990s often behave ineffectually?  Yes.  Did they sometimes identify Democratic policies with Catholic teaching?  Yes, tragically.  Did some bishops think Obama would be a good president?  Yes, it sadly seems to be so.

Is it correct to say that because bishops in the past failed to act as they ought, that this is the cause of the situation we face today?  I think not.  I am inclined to think the direct cause of this is too many placed all their trust in Stupak and failing to consider other contingencies.  The bishops who spoke out did not rely on Stupak.  They kept speaking out to the members of Congress, seeking to convince as many as they could of their moral duties.

Who Failed to do Their Job Now (As Opposed to the Past)?

Some failed in their duty and some did not.  This is why I must disagree with the Register article when it says:

Blame may be cathartic for some but that is not the reason I bring this sorry history up now.  Like the Republicans, the Bishops too must learn from their mistakes.  If they continue to ally themselves with the Democrat party and continue their cowardly and ineffective “pastoral” approach to pro-death Catholic politicians things will only get worse, and yes they can get worse.

So it is time for all of us to admit our mistakes and learn from them.  Lives depend on it.  We failed them before, let’s not do it again.

The problem I have is that it is clear from the actions of Bishops being increasingly vocal since the beginning of the Obama administration that they already have learned from their mistakes.  Yes, we now need to do more still.  Some may still do less than they ought, but this article seems to negate the strong witness bishops have given.

If We Wish to Judge, Let Us Begin With Ourselves

1 † “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.

2 For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.

† [Commentary from NAB] This is not a prohibition against recognizing the faults of others, which would be hardly compatible with Mat 7:5,6 but against passing judgment in a spirit of arrogance, forgetful of one’s own faults.

People want someone to blame.  If so, perhaps we should begin with ourselves, on our own failure to do enough at our level.  Did we do our best to oppose the bill, or did we decide to let Stupak do it for us, failing to consider he might be turned?

I believe that, if we examine our actions, most of us will have to say the latter.  Perhaps I should have written more on the subject than I did, for example.  I believed the statements of the bishops were quite strong, but perhaps I ought to have made them available on this site to inform the (admittedly small) number of followers of this site.  I could have looked for links to put on the site banner.  I couldn't have forced people to change their minds, but I could have perhaps let others know of other views.  For that, I can only say mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Yes it is easy to point fingers.  Yes, Archbishop Niederauer (for example) should have imposed discipline on Pelosi long before.  Yes other bishops have been lax.  Yes, the USCCB can use a better system of vetting when people try to use their name to promote a political agenda.  Yes, the visitation of the American nuns should immediately be ratcheted up a few notches in intensity.

Indicting the Whole For the Acts of Some

However, there is a large difference between being disappointed in saying certain bishops should have done more and indicting "the bishops" as a whole.

The USCCB did make their voice known through the proceedings, urging changes and once it became clear that the final senate bill was set, shifted to outright opposition.  When the CHA made their 11th hour deceits, when certain nuns misrepresented themselves as speaking for 60,000, when the Stupak compromise was announced, the USCCB made clear that these things were unacceptable, and urged members of Congress to vote against this law.

Certain Catholics in Congress may have used the words of dissenters to justify their wrong actions, but they would be guilty of vincible ignorance in the face of what the Bishops spoke out about.

We cannot control what others do of course.  We can control what we do.  We can only make our voice be heard and pray.

What If They Opposed Obamacare and Nobody Came?

I believe this comic, from DBD.com makes clear our duty now.  If we know this bill will impose injustices on us, it is up to us to fight, and not expect others to.  I think Berthold Brecht said it well:

What if they gave a war and nobody came?
Why, then, the war would come to you!
He who stays home when the fight begins
And lets another fight for his cause
Should take care:
He who does not take part
In the battle will share in the defeat.
Even avoiding battle will not avoid battle.
Since not to fight for your own cause
Really means
Fighting on behalf of your enemy's cause.

Let's avoid pointless recriminations now.  We have this to deal with now, and we need to face it united as Christians, not infighting among ourselves.  The infighting, the blame seeking and the scapegoating only aids those we must oppose.

Now, for better or for worse we have this system of Health care.  Now, it is our duty to challenge those aspects of it which are contrary to what we believe to be right and just.

Now is not the time to blame and scapegoat.