Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"We Have the Duty, Not Just the Right": On Abuse Response, CDF Enlists the Nunciatures

Even if the saga is public knowledge, such is the common "meme" on the topic that, for starters, the story could use yet another retelling.

In 2001, after a prolonged push, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrested the ultimate oversight of clergy sex-abuse cases into the hands of his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (above) after the official then charged with overseeing Rome's response -- Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, then head of the Congregation for the Clergy -- was thought to have lacked a sufficient understanding of the severity of the cases, and the damage they wrought.

Yet while the now-Pope won the "air-war" portion of the Curial turf-battle -- birthing what Ratzinger termed his "Friday penance" as he devoted each week's close to poring over the abuse files -- the daily groundwork of the CDF's combat operation (quickly pressed into overdrive with the following year's eruption of the Stateside crisis) fell to his "district attorney" at the Holy Office: Msgr Charles Scicluna, whose first major investigation at his boss' behest unearthed the evidence that leveled the powerful founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, who was banished from ministry by Benedict XVI in 2006. In time, Scicluna's initial probe would spur the pontiff to radically reconfigure the Legion amid findings of gross sexual and financial misconduct (including at least one illegitimate child) on the now-deceased founder's part that, the Holy See concluded, "at times constitute[d] real crimes."

At the peak of Maciel's considerable clout in the reign of John Paul II, such a result would've been little short of unconscionable. More broadly, though, in the decade since Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela brought the harrowing case-load to his desk, the team led by the Maltese promotor of justice (above) has processed over 3,000 allegations submitted (as is now mandatory on abuse claims) for review from around the globe.

Some 80 percent of the reports have resulted in the Congregation's ex officio sentence of permanent removal from ministry, with the other 20 percent referred to local tribunals.

This time last year -- as, under Scicluna's lead, the body previously gazetted as the "Inquisition" was finalizing its revised global norms which made child pornography a canonical crime, stipulated the abuse of mentally-challenged adults as equivalent to that of the young and permanently extended the statute of limitations on the reporting of cases -- a significant amount of Roman buzz tipped the low-profile monsignor as on the rise, going to the Clergy office as its archbishop-secretary. Even if the move didn't pan out -- the post eventually went to Clero's longtime #3 aide -- that could be taken far less as an instance of the proverbial "passover" than B16's indication that there was still work to do at the CDF, and no one who could do a better job of it. (Speaking of those who've led the Curia's "attitude adjustment" behind the scenes, it was announced earlier this month that the last of the three American canonists loaned to the Congregation to assist with cases in the immediate wake of 2002 would finally be heading home; later this summer, Msgr Bob Deeley is returning to his native Boston, this time to serve as Cardinal Sean O'Malley's lead vicar-general.)

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Having spoken in his few public interventions of Jesus' "words of fire" toward those who would "scandalize the young," rapped "a certain culture of silence" which, he said, remains prevalent in Italian culture on sexual abuse, urged survivors who came to the Congregation to bring their allegations to civil authorities, delivered a message of "amputation" at a Service of Atonement in St Peter's itself and, just recently, defended the "freedom" of the scandals' most widely-acclaimed healer -- Dublin's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin -- "to say whatever he thinks needs to be said" about the church's future in Ireland, perhaps Scicluna's most brow-raising remarks on the church's response to the ongoing crisis came over the weekend, as the lead prosecutor appeared at a Vatican press conference announcing two new initiatives: an "e-learning center" for church officials to study the nature and scope of abuse as an aid in forming their response, and a Holy See-sponsored 2012 conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University slated to address "Healing and Renewal" in the scandals' fallout.

Fresh from his latest triumph -- the CDF "Circular Letter" that, in a notable shift from Rome's ways of old, mandated local guidelines on handling abuse cases from each episcopal conference worldwide by next May -- as well as preaching a first Mass for a fellow Maltese ordained into England's Anglicanorum Ordinariate, here below are the key grafs of Scicluna's answers to reporters' questions, as translated by Zenit:
[On the response of bishops:] As is said in English, there are bishops of all "sizes," of all types, but there is an attitude of the bishop that does not stem from a personal option, but from his vocation to be a "good shepherd." When a good shepherd sees an enemy he does not flee, but rather he waits for the enemy at the door in order to defend his flock, as Jesus said. At the beginning of his pontificate, Benedict XVI also said: "Pray for me that I won't flee before the enemy, but that I will have the courage to be a good shepherd." Jesus' words, actualized also by the Pope, can be the ideal of every bishop today....

On giving bishops parameters for action, the Circular Letter sent by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith represents a very strong sign on the part of the Holy See. When we receive bishops on their "ad limina" visits we realize that there is a widespread awareness of the problem and also of the Pope's position in this regard. Moreover, each [member of the faithful] faithful has the right to express his concern about the diocese directly to the Holy See, through the nuncio. My work has made me appreciate very much the activity of the nuncios, who represent to the local community, not only to the governments, the closeness of the Holy Father.

People must know that they can turn to the nuncio when there are issues that have repercussions in the pastoral ministry of bishops, but not to denounce them, but to say: "We have confidence in the ministry of Peter, which the nuncio represents; we have a concern, and we have the duty, not just the right, to present it to Peter." This possibility also forms part of the education of the ecclesial community....

[On the media's role in reporting the crisis:] The media has opened everyone's eyes on the phenomenon, and has obliged us to address the truth of the events. Jesus has told us that the truth will make us free. There can be no healing, it is not possible to free oneself of this weight if we are not sufficiently humble and courageous to address the truth about the events, the truth of the wound, the need to fulfill our duty better. From this point of view, I see how Benedict XVI, with great humility, has been able to give a great example not only to the Church but also to the world.
To be sure, that might not be enough for some folks to say "case closed." Still, as a long decade of drastic change wends toward its close, the shift deserves fair credit.

PHOTOS: Getty(2); 3339 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC(3)