Saturday, July 31, 2010

Crimes against the faith: child molesters and women priests

Crimes against the faith: child molesters and women priests
Posted By By Rev. Bob Ripley QMI Agency
Posted 12 hours ago


Just when I thought that the Roman Catholic sex abuse scandal was flattened under the weight of gushing Gulf oil and Mel Gibson's rants, last week the Vatican sent a letter to its bishops targeting crimes against the faith.

You know, the rape of children, molestation of the mentally disabled, possession of child pornography and the ordination of women.


I'm not kidding on that last one. More later.

Pope Benedict has begged forgiveness from victims of sexual abuse by priests, "particularly the abuse of the little ones," and promised to do everything possible to protect them.

He has met with abuse victims and said the scandal had shown the need for a purification of the Church. All of this raised hope that the Vatican had grasped the gravity of the scandal and that doing anything less than everything to prevent future abuse would be a betrayal not only of victims but all those who trust the Church to guide them.

So what should have been major surgery to address a serious wound, has turned out to be the application of a bandage at best; a move more tactical than penitential.

In 2003, the Vatican restructured its procedures for disciplining abusive priests, allowing them to be defrocked without a lengthy canonical trial if the evidence against them was overwhelming. The recent rules codified those procedures into church law. The rules extend the statute of limitations for handling priestly abuse cases from 10 years to 20 years after the victim's 18th birthday. Priests who possess or distribute child pornography and those who sexually abuse developmentally disabled adults will be subject to the same procedures and punishments as priests who molest minors.

The new rules, however, do not demand that bishops report clerical sex abuse to police, provide no canonical sanctions for bishops who cover up for abusers, and do not include any "zero tolerance" policy for pedophile priests.

As New York Times columnist Maureen Down suggested, if Roman Polanski were a priest, he'd still be working in the United States.

"The first thing the church should be doing is reporting crimes to civil authorities," said Andrew Madden, a former Dublin altar boy who filed the first public abuse lawsuit against the church in Ireland in 1995.

"That's far, far more important than deciding whether a criminal priest should be defrocked or not," he told The Associated Press in Dublin.

"The church's internal rules are no more important than the rules of your local golf club."

Astonishingly, the Church chose to include the attempt to ordain women as priests among the "gaviora delicta" or grave offences, subject to the same set of procedures and punishments meted out for pedophilia and heresy. Church officials later clarified that they didn't necessarily believe the crimes were of equal gravity. Too late. Damage done.

In 2007, the Vatican issued a decree saying that the attempted ordination of women would result in the automatic excommunication for the woman and the priest trying to ordain her. This recent document adds that the priest also can be defrocked.

I come from a religious tradition that has been ordaining women since 1936. True, Jesus chose men for his dozen disciples; a choice more contextual than doctrinal. No women. But no blacks or Germans either.

It's important to know whether we are listening to God or our ambitions or our anxieties. A religious institution which insists on male prerogative has to ask whether it is an unalterable dictate or misogynistic nonsense.

And any institution which works harder to protect predators rather than victims does indeed need, in the words of Pope Benedict, "a purification."

Jesus is not the protector of pedophile priests, he is judge and jury and the sentence is as harsh as it gets.

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