Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Spreading the Mitres Around

Three hours' sleep, and back to the races.

As floated in the Italian press a couple weeks back, this morning the Pope elevated three veteran Curial superiors to the episcopacy: Fr Gianfranco Girotti, OFM Conv, the regent (#2 official) of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Msgr Antoni Stankiewicz, the dean of the Roman Rota, and Fr Raffaele Farina, SDB, the prefect of the Vatican's Apostolic Library.

Of these, the most notable is Girotti, 70 in April, who served for 33 years in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ending up as Cardinal Ratzinger's undersecretary before being sent to the tribunal that handles matters of the internal forum. The native Roman was the CDF's first point-man in the handling of the abuse allegations of three Mexican men against Fr Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, as illustrated in a 2001 NCR piece by Gerry Renner and Jason Berry, the authors of Vows of Silence:
[Canon lawyer Martha] Wegan advised the Mexicans to meet with an official at the congregation. She secured an appointment with Fr. Gianfranco Girotti, a Franciscan priest and one of Ratzinger’s three secretaries.

On Oct. 17, 1998, Wegan and the three men entered the Palazza [sic] Sant’Ufficio and went directly to Girotti’s office. As they entered the building, Ratzinger was having a conversation on a patio, perhaps 50 feet away.

The Mexicans spoke with Girotti in Italian, a language in which Barba and Jurado were fluent. Roqueñi speaks Italian, too, from his years of canonical study in Rome.

Girotti asked few questions as Wegan and Roqueñi outlined the case.

Finally, Girotti said, in Spanish: Porqué hora? Why, he wondered, were they raising the issue after so many years?

Barba told him about the full-page advertisements in 1994 celebrating Maciel’s 50 years as a priest. More than any single factor, they said, the newspaper advertisements had emboldened them to seek out journalists and tell their story.

Girotti seemed satisfied with the responses of Barba and Jurado, the men said later. The meeting lasted less than an hour. Near the end, Girotti said smilingly, “You must refrain from talking to journalists.”

“But Monsignor,” replied Barba, “we have already done so.”

Girotti understood that the abuse allegations had appeared in the press. But, Barba said, he wanted to prevent media coverage of their canon law appeal.

Wegan presented Girotti with a statement of accusation, citing Canon 977, (on the “absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the Sixth Commandment”); Canon 1378 (“absolution of an accomplice”); and Canon 1362, (“offenses reserved to the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”)....

In January of 1999, Barba telephoned Wegan to check the status of the case. She said that Girotti was receptive, Barba told NCR. Wegan also told him the congregation was having trouble finding Maciel, Barba said....

On Dec. 24, 1999, Martha Wegan wrote her clients, saying she had “sad news.”

“I finally succeeded in speaking with Fr. Girotti,” she wrote. “In fact, I spoke with him twice. But the result was not very good.

“For the time being the matter is closed,” her letter continued. “They looked into the matter and confirmed to me that some people have lost their jobs, that the cardinal of Mexico is the person who is, etc., etc.

“Sad news,” she wrote, “but on the other hand since this is such a delicate situation, time should be allowed to play its role, and who knows what will happen later on.”....

On March 1, 2000, Roqueñi wrote to Girotti and put his career on the line by suggesting that the congregation was not doing its job.

“The fact is that more than 17 months have gone by and the only notice that the claimants have, communicated by your attorney [Wegan], is that the matter is extremely delicate, [and] that there are other related claims. From Roqueñi’s point of view, Vatican officials were “weighing the scandal that a judicial resolution would cause, if condemnatory for the one accused, or favorable for the claimants....

Wegan arranged for Barba to meet with Girotti at 10 a.m. on July 31, 2000, and accompanied him to the meeting. Girotti asked his aides to escort the pair from a small room to a larger, more attractive parlor.

Barba said he told Girotti: “We want to be judged!”

According to Barba, Girotti responded by saying: “It is not you who have to be judged, but him [Maciel].”

Barba went on: “He said it was such a serious case, yet he seemed exasperated. I told him that the word we had given to keep silent with the media stops now. He asked, ‘Why?’ I said there were rumors in Mexico that friends of the Legion had given us money to keep quiet. I told him, ‘We have suffered too much.’ ”

Then, Barba said, something extraordinary happened. After two years of working their case through the ecclesiastical system of justice, Girotti suggested that they file a civil lawsuit against Maciel.
The case seemed to hit a wall but, as you know, time indeed played its role. As did the former Cardinal Ratzinger.