Friday, April 16, 2010

For French Kudos, Castrillón Gets Curbed

In but the latest notable Roman development on the abuse front, late last night the Holy See underscored B16's record on the handling of cases at the expense of one of his pontificate's lead allies on other matters.

In a September 2001 letter relayed by the French journal Golias, Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos -- then head of the Congregation for the Clergy -- "congratulate[d]" a French bishop "for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration."

As translated by Reuters, Castrillon (shown above before a 2008 Mass in London) told Bishop Pierre Pican that "You have acted well and I am pleased to have a colleague in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all other bishops in the world, preferred prison to denouncing his son and priest."

According to the wire, Pican had received a suspended three-month jail sentence for failing to report the accused cleric to the authorities. A Salesian of Don Bosco who served as bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux since 1988, the prelate's resignation was accepted last 12 March, not even two weeks after he reached the retirement age of 75.

In a rapid late-night response, the lead Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, said that the letter " is confirmation of the timeliness" of the arrangement made earlier that year for the "unified treatment of cases of sexual abuse of minors on the part of members of the clergy under the competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, guaranteeing them a rigorous and coherent oversight."

Prior to the May 2001 rerouting of abuse cases to the CDF -- then headed, of course, by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- Rome's handling of allegations of clerical misconduct would have fallen within the competence of Castrillon's dicastery.

Previously a diocesan bishop in his native country, the Colombian prelate served as head of the Vatican office overseeing the global church's half-million priests and deacons from 1996 until 2006; he was made a cardinal in 1998. But it was in his secondary post as president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei -- a post he held from 2000 until last summer -- that Castrillón arguably attained even greater prominence as a lead lieutenant guiding two hot-button items especially close to Benedict's heart: the church's ongoing reconciliation efforts with the traditionalist Society of St Pius X, and the enhanced availability of the 1962 Missal, whose "liberation" the cardinal championed in first advocating, then handling the implementation of Summorum Pontificum, the pontiff's 2007 motu proprio granting a "universal indult" for celebrations of the pre-Conciliar use.

Now 80, Castrillón is scheduled to celebrate a Solemn Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form next Saturday in Washington to honor the fifth anniversary of B16's inauguration as Pope.

The emergence of the 2001 letter isn't the cardinal's first brush with controversy over his comments on abuse in the church.

As he presented John Paul II's 2002 Holy Thursday letter to priests -- which, in an unprecedented papal reference to the scandals amid their US outbreak, spoke of the "mysterium iniquitatis" ("the mystery of evil") -- Castrillón observed that the predominant questioning on the crisis from English-speaking media provided "an x-ray of the problem."

While the line evinced a fairly common thought in the Vatican halls at the time -- one that, in some quarters, survived even until recent weeks -- it's just one of the many lines on the matter you won't hear there anymore.

Earlier in the week, the Vatican rolled out an extensive compilation of the papal and Curial response on sex abuse given over recent years years, its centerpiece a new "introductory guide" to the CDF's process for handling credible allegations.

Though the congregation's note that "civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed" garnered headlines, the Holy See had backed the policy since at least late 2002, when it approved the US bishops' "Dallas norms" for handling cases, which included the provision to comply "with all applicable civil laws."

Widely viewed as the driving force behind the Stateside church's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, in a Vatican Radio interview this week, the USCCB president as the 2002 storm broke -- now Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta -- said that the now-Pope "was, without a doubt, the most supportive voice at the table, and always seemed to possess the greatest comprehension of the seriousness and the significance of reacting and responding with a strong action."