Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Royal Commission

A paragraph in today's Australian newspaper to my mind hit the nail on the head:

Giving evidence to the Victorian inquiry, Chamley said church abuse took place in a state of anarchy. "There is no compliance with the nation's laws, or their own canon laws, their own moral laws by these offenders," he says. "And others in the organisation don't force any compliance. That's anarchy."

Does not this phrase "a state of anarchy" exactly describe the sad state of affairs in the Catholic Church ever since all hell broke loose just after the convoking of the Second Vatican Council, when even the then Pope lamented that "the smoke of Satan has entered the Church"? Within a few years, there was outright rebellion against Church doctrine and discipline amongst both the clergy and laity: and the sixties and seventies being what they were, with sexual boundaries well and truly breached, it is sadly unsurprising that even the most vile crimes against children were both committed with impunity and, what is worse, not dealt with in the ways that both State and Church law separately prescribe.

There was a taboo against believing dark tales of pedophilia, certainly: but there was a very clear duty to report, to investigate, to convict and punish cases of such crimes. Instead, too often powers both secular and ecclesiastical preferred to look the other way, to deny such horrors could exist, and quietly to move suspected offenders into new hunting grounds, pretending that any problems would thereby evaporate, rather than multiply.  There was much ignorance of the problem of pedophilia, let alone of its rapacious, insatiable drive; and the psychological advice proferred at the time tended if anything to downplay its seriousness.  Too often, the naively trusting were simply unable to accept that persons in holy orders could ever do something so terrible.

Catholics in the know are quite familiar with the usual protestation of Church authorities when faced with complaints, whether about preaching, or the conduct of the liturgy, or the vilest crimes against the innocent: "Nothing is wrong, everything is fine," too many say, even now, about all these matters and more.  Would that the matters about which the faithful complain without being heeded were minor!

There is the strange refusal to actually believe in and try to enforce "moral laws" – hence, to say nothing of molestation, the decline in Mass attendance, and the vast increase in cohabitation and contraception, are matters not even worried over, despite the fact that by the standard of official Catholic moral beliefs, all these matters are serious mortal sins that drag souls down to Hell.

There is the like refusal to enforce canon law – to say nothing of the penalties contained in the Code of Canon Law that ought be enforced against priests who break most grievously the Sixth Commandment, the penalties provided for many offences against the canons (for instance, the withholding Holy Communion from notorious public sinners, such as politicians who vote to legalize abortion and speak in favour of abortion, despite claiming to be Catholics in good standing) are not enforced.

And as for secular law, surely anyone alerted to any person, let alone a priest, who might be committing serious crimes, whether sexual or otherwise, ought advise the relevant law enforcement agencies immediately – that's just common sense.  How can too many have mouthed platitudes and yet done nothing while the young were most cruelly raped?  Their pretense of religion is vain, their sin is manifest, their hypocrisy beneath contempt, their fate hellfire if they do not repent in dust and ashes: one fears that they but play at belief in Christ, else they would not so casually spit in His face.  "Inasmuch as ye have done unto the least of My brethren, ye have done so unto Me," says the Son of God.

Yes, truly "others in the organisation don't force any compliance. That's anarchy." Many a wit has observed that no one has obeyed authority in the Church since 1968: and worse still, no one has attempted to enforce authority for as long. Rather than do what might seem harsh, bishops have sat on their hands.  Paul VI notoriously acted as a very Hamlet rather than seriously attempt to reimpose stronger control on the Church in his day.  Did they fear the spectre of schism? Instead of a schism, they have engendered squalor, the filth of moral turpitude and outrageous crime.

On paper, the law of the land is clear, and always has been. On paper, canon law is likewise clear, and should likewise have been implemented. On paper, the moral teachings of the Church – not those of the parallel magisterium – are just as unchanging.  Recall, however, a sad corollary to Neuhaus' Law: A doctrine not preached (or a discipline not enforced) is not believed.

A priest who commits such vile crimes, even once, let alone over and again, upon being found out, should be tried and then subjected to every penalty of canon law, just as his crimes against the secular law should be tried and then punished by imprisonment. A priest (or anyone else) who comes to repent of such sins should, when confessing such, be most earnestly counselled to go and turn himself in (a priest whom I know and respect explained that this is what a confessor would be expected to do if he heard such a confession).

Any priest who, upon hearing such a confession, merely prescribed some light penance without requiring the penitent to turn himself in, has – I would argue strongly – himself abused the Sacrament, outraging Christ the Judge (Whose representative he is) by giving so wrongly lenient a verdict.  In any case, I rather suspect that pedo priests rarely darkened the door of the confessional – just as with the vast number of laity who haven't been to confession since 1968.  Those hardened in sin rarely repent.

Anarchy in the Church is also a result of – mock not – the radically decentralized structure of the Church. It amuses me greatly that so many seem to think Cardinal Pell ought resign, as if he has any control at all over all the dioceses of Australia, or as if he has any responsibility for matters in Sydney prior to his translation thereto in 2001, or in Melbourne before and after his tenure there (1996-2001).  Is the repetition of his name simply because his is the only bishop's name that most people know?

No bishop has any authority outside his own diocese; titles such as Archbishop or Cardinal, let alone President of the Bishops' Conference, are merely honorary.  What does one bishop know of the priests in another diocese? Only what he may be told by another diocese regarding a priest of that diocese if he be moved from that diocese into the diocese of the bishop in question. What does a bishop know of the priests of any religious order or congregation? Only what that body, a true imperio in imperium, may tell him.

And priests in their parishes are, in truth, quite independent of outside authority: there being a shortage of priests, they are rarely severely dealt with, since bishops have so few with which to man their churches. Very grave financial irregularities are one of the few reasons priests are suddenly removed from office; until recently, it is alleged, even sexual scandals were not acted on until matters were near to public exposure; as for any doctrinal or liturgical irregularities, they are tolerated always and everywhere, unless the Vatican itself becomes involved (as with the invalid baptisms conducted for decades in South Brisbane, or the nonsense foolishly declared publicly by the late bishop of Toowoomba, a man who in the Pope's own view lacked the theological acumen to be a bishop).

Until the state of law, that is, the state of justice and equity, is restored within the Church, by obedience to Divine law, ecclesiastical law and secular law, there is no hope for real change.  Too often sentiment, and much indulgent prating about "love" and "mercy" while practising neither, or worse, favouring the abuser over the victim, have been the poor substitutes for the tranquillity of order that has been sadly lacking for decades.

Should not priests be most angered and righteously indignant against those wolves in sheep's clothing, their errant fellow clerics? I would have more respect for bishops and priests if they called for the harshest penalties, and sought manfully to have them enforced, against predators, Judases, in their ranks. The silence of the many can appear to betoken consent in the eyes of the cynical world.

In respect of the most terrible crimes of clerical sexual abuse against children, the chickens have come home to roost: the Church's reputation is in tatters, priests are looked upon as potential molesters, and the body that Christ established to continue His saving work on earth is seen by too many as a vile nest of vipers spewing forth poison, a corrupting influence from which the young must be protected.

So great is the moral panic at the moment, that even the inviolability of confession is being attacked – rather naively, it must be said, since so few go to confess these days in any case, and the sort of priest who goes to confession regularly is hardly likely to be a child abuser, just as murderers and thieves can scarcely be expected to be habitués of the confessional!  As I once heard said, the worse the sin, the less likely it is to be confessed, and vice versa.

In any case, even if – which God avert – it were mandated that priests report all they hear in confession about sex crimes against children, how on earth would such be enforced? It is obviously ridiculous to attempt to impose such a law, given, for example, the words of the Bishop of Darwin to-day, that he would rather die than reveal the secrets of the confessional, and the words to me of a wise priest, who said that this issue perhaps alone unites all priests, left and right, liberal and conservative, in that to a man they would rather go to prison than break the seal.

Even if, as another put it, thousands of priests were imprisoned for refusing to break the seal, still it would effect nothing, the discipline of the Universal Church would never change. How could anyone be convicted of not divulging matters heard in confession anyway, since there would be no way to prove that they were hiding anything anyway (since, one suspects, ASIO wouldn't be up to the job of bugging every confessional).

Pray that the Royal Commission being established here in Australia to inquire into child abuse will truly uncover the truth, be it ever so uncomfortable: for great is the truth, and it shall prevail.

Laud's prayer for the Church is apposite:

GRACIOUS Father, we humbly beseech Thee to bless Thy holy Catholic Church, and fill it with truth and grace. Where it is corrupt, purge it; where it is in error, direct it; where anything is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen and confirm it; where it is wanting, furnish it; where it is divided and rent asunder, heal the breaches thereof, O Thou Holy One of Israel, for Jesus Christ’s sake, who with Thee and the Holy Ghost now liveth and reigneth, world without end.  Amen.


Ludovico said...

Oh do come along Joshua. There are documented cases of sexual abuse by Roman clergy in Australia and elsewhere dating from long before 1968. Vatican II might be held responsible for many things, sexual confusion and outright criminality among the clergy -- not to mention moral failure among bishops -- is definitely not among the fresh fruits attributable to the Council.

Joshua said...

Point taken: sadly, there have always been Judases amongst the clergy. I still maintain that the state of anarchy in the Church, whereby moral, ecclesiastical and secular laws are not obeyed, is a specifically post-Conciliar problem. The exact causal link is hard to establish of course - the documents of Vatican II hardly called for anarchy! - but I think it fair to assert that matters grew worse after the Council.

Matthias said...

Thnaks for this Joshua I was loosing heart but had made up my mind that nothing will cause me to give up my faith:
Not royal commission nor a hierarchy unsympathetic to victims or who cover up crimes
nor raging secularists and their fellow travellers such as Coyne and Schwarz.
Our faithful priests need our support and prayers and our parishes need faithful people