Hey kids! Let's analyze the Cardinal's Statement from Rome!

Ah hell, it’s too long. Let’s go right to the recommendations:

My thoughts:

No comment on proposal number 1.

I find #2 very troubling. My concern is the phrase stating that a priest will be dismissed “who has become notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory, sexual abuse of minors.” (emphasis added) I read this to mean that immediate dismissal of a serial abuser will not occur unless the priest has become “notorious” (which I read in its legal definition of being openly known to the public at large). IOW, a serial abuser who has managed to keep his crimes secret from the public will not by immediately dismissed. This is disturbingly close to an endorsement or encouragement of Cardinal Law’s policy up in Boston.

#3 is also troubling - the cardinals refused to adopt a “one-strike” policy.

#4 I find potentially very disturbing. I may be reading a bit much into the mention of “admissions requirements”, but I fear that they are talking about a witchhunt to deny entry into the priesthood by homosexuals.

#5 I read as fluff, but then again I’m not a Catholic.

#6 I just find irritating. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the cardinals to call for a day of prayer and penance for U.S. bishops and priests?

Important, IMO, is also what is missing from the statement. Why was there no discussion about setting up policies on investigation (what happened to non-clerical review boards) or cooperations with law enforcement?

Overall, I think the proposals could lead to no real change. The overriding concern appears to remain the public image of the church, rather than the protection of children. I find it sad.


I am troubled that your post is explicitly aimed at minors.


Once, some states’ tort laws specified that an owner was not liable for his dog’s bites, unless he knew that his dog was vicious. This was summarized as “Every dog gets one free bite.”

Apparently the Vatican’s policy will be, “Every priest gets one free child molestation.”


Especially if the church and the priest are successful in covering it up. The use of the word “notorious” is bothering me more and more as I think about it.


They may, indeed, be looking to avoid outside pressure.

On the other hand, as the preface to point #3 notes, there are already regulations in place governing the dismissal of priests. Both points #2 and #3 refer to new special procedures that would, apparently, bypass some of the older regulations.

An alternative reading to the one you have proposed, Sua, (and I do not claim that this was their intent, only noting that the statement is terse enough to allow different interpretations):

  • There are rules in place to dismiss a priest (that include various “due process” considerations).

  • Proposal #2 suggests that we strip away someof that due process in order to cease giving scandal as soon as the word is out.

  • In addition, proposal #3 suggests that even without the danger of giving scandal, if the evidence looks compelling, the due process should still be stripped away in order to avoid the potential for repeated activities before the process can be completed.

Again, I am not claiming that this is the point they were making. (And they have certainly made enough foolish statements, this week, that I am not going to presume they are intending the right thing.) However, barring further clarification, it is possible that they are declaring their intentions to be more aggressive in getting rid of the problem priests and their language, in this instance, is working against their intent.

They should let them marry.

I’m hesitant to jump into this, since I haven’t really been following this issue closely. But what I keep wondering about is WHY the church needs special policies to deal with child molestation. What is so special about a priest, than say, a teacher? If a parent suspects a teacher molested his child, then the police are informed and if there’s evidence, a trial and possibly jail time.

If a dock worker or a computer programmer or a basket weaver molests a child, then the police get involved. What is so different about the clergy?

Revtim, there’s nothing different about them - if they are reported to the police they will be arrested like everyone else.

And I agree with Tomndebb about #2 and #3, one of the bishops (McCarrick I think) was televised last night as saying they needed to be able to ‘move quickly’ with an abuse situation which was ‘predatory’ in nature as in a pedophile. This doesn’t come across well with the language used in the recommendations, but it does make sense that way.

Not a damn thing IMO.

One thing here in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which has a strict, zero-tolerance policy, is that it has to be credible. In other words, Billy can’t just say that Father Bob molested him and Fr. Bob is immediatly arrested and dragged into prison. They have to investigate, and make sure they can prove it-in other words, Billy’s just pissed because Fr. Bob gave him a failing grade and now Billy’s grounded.

Or something like that.

Let me back that up cause it sounds like my last post should be in the Pit.

I find the fact that the church can operate outside the law completely ridiculous. I think that any clergy that knew about a fellow clergy member assualting children and helping cover it up should be brought to trial as an accomplice. These are the people who were chosen to act as a moral standard, and if anything should be held to a higher standard. I find it completely unconsionable that the catholic archdioses would cover for a child rapist to protect the image of the church. There should be a zero-tolerance rule in effect. There should also be due process of course, but if there is an allegation of rape made, then the authorities should conduct an investigation and that alone should decide a priests fate. The church SHOULD NOT conduct an inquiry for the sole reason that they aren’t detectives with modern forensic tools to convict or not convict a person. A priest is a citizen like everyone else and should be held to the same statutes that everyone else is bound by.


The church always had its own policies for dealing with the improper actions of its agents. Many of these date back to the time when the church was a parallel governmental agency (or, was the de facto government prior to the Renaissance and the Reformation. Many of those rules and policies have been used (for both good and ill) to discipline the clergy who might have been out of the reach of the civil authorities and to shield the clergy from civil authorities engaged in persecution. (They have, of course, also been used to shield clergy from the legitimate concerns of the civil government as has happened in these cases.)

The church has stayed out of issues regarding murder, theft, and similar civil laws for quite a while. Some other laws have been perceived as grayer areas of overlapping jurisdiction. Unfortunately, the issues of child molestation have been treated as one of the “gray” areas.

While pedophilia was perceived as a treatable illness, a lot of people (not just the Catholic hierachy) attempted to deal with it in ways similar to alcoholism (or to driving drunk).

In the early 1990s, the National Council of Catholic Bishops responded to statements from the psychological community that while pedophilia might be a disease, it was not a curable condition, and they set out guidelines to stop “treating and releasing” priests who had committed those acts.

Unfortunately, the NCCB can only make recommendations and no bishop is compelled to follow those guidelines. Quite a few diocese did implement tough reporting rules, internally. Shamefully, many did not.

The hierarchy is now wrestling with the fact that they have to change their views from one that sees the issue as a moral or psychological complaint, to one that is strictly governed by civil law.
(That, of course, should have been a quick match with the law winning all the pins no later than the NCCB recommendations–and probably long before that–but too few of the guys at the top got or understood the message.)

This is exactly what I have been wondering through all of this. Why doesn’t the Church adopt a rule that says any reported abuse will be reported to the police? The police can then conduct an impartial investigation just like they would anywhere else in the world. Frankly I would like to see the Church (I do not know what the Church’s standing is as an entity, so maybe you could only go after the individual Cardinals, priests etc…) indited. It looks like criminal negligence to me (IANAL) They knew there was abuse going on, they did nothing to stop it or they put the abuser in a postion where they knew or should have known that it would happen again. If that isn’t criminal, it should be!

I wonder what the policy in public schools is when a teacher is accused of molestation.

Does the policy and the practice coincide satisfactorily?

What is the incidence of child molestation among priests as compared to child molestation among school teachers?

I think there’s a lot of people who are really enjoying the opportunity for a free shot at the Catholic Church.


Marriage has nothing to do with the issue of molesting children. There are, after all, those who are married who do that.

Good point re the schools.

I wouldn’t call criticizing the Church’s response to abuse a free shot. I think they’ve earned this one.

Good questions, Scylla. I have been following this story (hell, I’ve been beaten over the head with it–three homilies in three weeks, and every cover of every Catholic publication for the last two months).

There are a lot of good questions. Some of them are hard to answer, because we don’t have full information. Some of them are even hard to ask.

One of the obvious things is that the Church needs to address this problem (besides just: “refer them to the police”, which also needs to be done). For instance, in a country where child molestation is not prosecuted or where there are other pressing concerns (war, poverty, famine), does that mean child molestation is OK, as long as the local authorities have no problem with it? Certainly not.

Or, what about churches in a (hypothetical) strict regime hostile to the church, and where homosexuality (and by extension, male-on-male child abuse) is punishable by death. Does the church then refer “all allegations” to the authorities and let them handle it?

What about the priest whose been charged and convicted and served his 5 years. Does he return to the priesthood? As far as society is concerned, he “did his debt”.

It is clear that the Church does need to address this problem, besides “refer to local authorities”. What you might be missing in the typical non-apology apology from the Vatican is that this is a surprisingly fast response. This is the church that still has difficulty analyzing their culpability in the Inquisition (which nobody expected), and where an annulment takes three years.

Personally, I’ve felt that the best thing might be to charge each national council of bishops to draft a solution for that country, which is almost what this appears to be.

kg m²/s²

Certainly, there is much criticism due to the Church.

It’s extremely difficult to tell how much of the coverup is somehow specific to the Catholic church, and how much of it is typical behavior exhibited by every organization. We’ve seen the police, the president (actually more than one), and Enron all exhibiting the same sort of behavior.

There are other hard questions. How much of this is press scandal-mongering? Remember the scare about daycare abuse circa ten years ago? When it was thought that every daycare sexually abused every child? Later, we discovered that no, it was actually a couple of stories that broke at the same time. Once the hysteria dies down (and if the Church ever opens up), we can get a better perspective on the problem. Remember Gary Condit? Remember Monica Lewinsky? Remember O. J. Simpson? Is this just a pile-on?

Notice that, even though it seemed for a while that a new priest sex abuse case broke almost every single day, most of them were ten or more years old. And many of them didn’t exhibit the pattern of priest repeatedly moved from parish to parish, that happened less often and in fewer dioceses. So what’s the real extent? Don’t be fooled by the reprehensibility of the Church into thinking that the press can be blindly trusted.

In many cases (not that it was right), the Church and the parents settled the cases, by the Church paying the parents and both parties agreeing not to tell anyone. I believe that in many (most?) of these cases, the Church pressured the parents to keep quiet; but I also believe that in others, the parents had no wish for the story to become known. In that case, is the Church guilty of a “coverup” for respecting the parents’ wishes?

How many recent allegations are real, and how many are attempts to cash in? In fact, is part of the problem that the Church makes a big fat target? Does the Methodist (for example) church have the same problem, but parents don’t report it because there’s nobody beyond the local church with the money to pay?

I am not suggesting these are the only questions. And I certainly don’t want to be seen as excusing the Church’s or the individual priests’ behavior (I excuse neither). But there is, as always, another side. It’s difficult to present or see that other side, without appearing insensitive to the fact that there were real direct victims of child abuse. The church’s response has to address that, as well as the big picture.

kg m²/s²

This is a hard issue, no doubt. Personally, I am appalled that parents would accept a settlement that bound them to confidentiality, but OTOH, I understand a parent’s wish to protect their child from additional harm caused by publicity - though I think that it misguided; avoiding the harm of publicity may easily be counterbalanced by the continuing harm of keeping the incident(s) secret, which I think adds to the shame.

But anyway, there is a huge, huge difference between “respecting the parents’ wishes” by not reporting an incident to the police and in putting that priest in a situation where he has contact with children again. I mean, c’mon, you don’t have to give out the child’s name when you tell a principal or a pastor “the diocese of Boston does not recommend that Father X be given the position of Youth Ministries director - there has been a serious and credible allegation of inappropriate behavior with young boys, the details of which are subject to a confidentiality agreement.”

As for your other post, your speculations about appropriate church responses in hypothetical countries are interesting but utterly irrelevant. The proposals set forth by the cardinals in Rome explicitly refer to the “chuch in the United States.”

So? Certainly, a percentage of the people expressing their outrage over the situation are HappyHeathen type idiots.

But there is a simple reason for the level of outrage. Priests, and indeed all clergy, have voluntarily held themselves out to be adhering to a higher standard of morality and conduct then schoolteachers.
Why did Jim Bakker get all the press when there have been many con men who have stolen more money then he did? Because he was a minister - he proclaimed himself to be one of the good guys. So have priests.
The reason the outrage is so high is that, on top of the actual harm these priests have caused, there is a very real and very valid feeling of betrayal.

Of course, add to this, the fact that this ain’t a new story. The same horrors, and the same stories of the church covering them up, were revealed in the early 90s. Nothing changed.



My take on the new policy: rape only the one special child you love and keep it secret. “Notorious, serial” - is there any other interpretation?

The term “accessory after the fact” keeps popping into my head. “Co-conspirator” is not far behind. RICO and Mann Act are looming on the horizon.

No clergy expects the secular inqusition!!!