Thursday, July 8, 2010

In response to Nicholas Cafardi’s comments carried on dotCommonweal

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In response to Nicholas Cafardi’s comments carried on dotCommonweal:

James A. Jenkins, Ph.D. PSY 17650, Advisory Board Member, NSACoalition. w/510.559.9963

Nicholas Cafardi gives a very lawyerly account of how it all went terribly wrong legally (canonically speaking) for the Vatican in its handling of the priests sex abuse scandal.

You get the impression that if only those fumbling career politicians in the Vatican had followed their own canon law, things could have been different.

I have a decidedly less sanguine view of the Vatican’s management approach and its use of canon law to insulate itself from taking the only morally defensible response to the rape and sodomy of children.

Despite what Cafardi claims, the debate among and between the Vatican curia and American bishops about the statute of limitations in canon law regarding the sexual abuse of children by priests was still going on in 2002.

I know this is so because [now Cardinal] William Levada told me so after his return from Rome from consultations at the Inquisition (now the CDF) where then Cardinal Ratzinger was still running the show.

The San Francisco Review Board, of which I was then the chair, specifically requested that Levada convey to the curia our great distress over the possibility that the statute of limitations that would govern our investigations be anything but the American legal standard.

Our fear was, I believe justifiably, the public would never understand and further undercut any credibility of review board investigations.

There was also pushback from the Inquisition about what would constitute majority age for males and females, the canonical or the American legal standard. The Review Board was equally adamant about using the accepted American standard of 18 years of age.

These were not insignificant points of contention. If the canonical standards were used (which Cafardi confirms were still being debated within Vatican circles), this would have meant effectively that most allegations of sexual abuse against priests were mute (as far as canon law were concerned), and never would warrant any further investigation by the church’s review boards across the US.

Levada reported to us on the SF Review Board that it was the opinion of the Inquisition that canon law should always supersede American law.

Ratzinger and his allies in the curia were maneuvering to render all of the investigations of the Review Boards worthless before they even got started. Little did we then know that the hierarchy never had any intention of ever conducting independent and unvarnished investigations of sexual abuse by priests.

One of the architects of the so-called “Dallas Charter,” the Rev. Gregory Ingels, [canon lawyer and former SF chancellor for Levada] himself eventually indicted by a Marin County grand jury for the rape and sodomy of adolescents, predicted to me personally that canonical charges against him would never stand because of the prescriptions in canon law regarding statute of limitations and the majority age of males and females.

My recollection of Levada’s report of his consultations at the Inquisition was that the curia was not too pleased with the “zero tolerance” approach either adopted by American bishops at their Dallas meetings.

Face it, with Ratzinger running the show at the Inquisition, and now as pope, there was never any intention to deal forthrightly with the abuse scandal on the part of the Vatican hierarchy.

The Vatican hierarchs were engaged in a calculated strategy of delay and dissemination in hopes that they could eventually survive the tidal wave of scandal that has swamped their leadership.

How’s that working out for them?

I’m glad that Cafardi thinks that “Vatican canonists” have “a lot of explaining to do.” But, isn’t that what “Ricky Ricardo” used to say on the old “I Love Lucy Show” after one of Lucy’s comic stunts exploded in her face.

The problem, of course, is that the rape and sodomy of children by priests and bishops never has, and never will be, comical.

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