Friday, March 26, 2010

Arrest Weakland!

This Vatican secrecy stuff is ridiculous, archbishops, bishops and priests too, are subject to the civil law, if they break it by concealing evidence of a crime then they should be brought to trial and suffer the consequences of their crime, so enough of this media ranting, lets have some prosecutions.

In the case of Lawrence Murphy in Milwalkee, Murphy was investigated by the police, who declined to propsecute. Did Archbishop Rembert Weakland have additional information of Murphy's guilt which he concealed from the civil authorities, which if he had revealed would have brought about his conviction?  If so prosecute Weakland, let him answer for it before the civil authorities. Catholics have to obey, just civil laws, the Church is not above the law.

Canon Law is about the internal governance of the Church. It has the same presumption of innocence as any other court and requires the same burden of proof. It relies on the investigations of the local bishop, in the case of the Milwalkee allegations, presumably it would have followed the same course of evidence gathering as the civil authorities. The civil authorities didn't find enough evidence so why should Rome?

Normally a canonical trial will follow a civil trial, for the most part civil offences are the same as ecclessiastical ones, the Church has additional offences such as violation of the sacraments, offences against the unity of the Church, such as heresy or disobedience but for any prosecution proof is required. The outcome of a successful prosecution can result in laicisation, restrictions on the individual's ministry, or censure. It is the canonical process which is secret. The secrecy is there to protect the reputation of the accused and the accuser and to stop any undue influence on witnesses.

The ecclesiastical process is not a substitute for the civil process, it is addition.

I find it almost incredible that the parents of a child who had been raped or otherwise abused by a priest would not go to the civil auithorities and seek justice for their child. I find it difficult to believe an adult who has discovered the courage to report an act of  abuse in their childhood should choose to report the matter to a bishop rather than the police, except perhaps if there is little evidence, but when there is scant evidence how can the Church proceed against someone justly?

added at midday: Yes, those of you who have commented so far and disagree with this last paragraph, you are right. Reporting the abuse to civil authorities can often be an abusive experience in itself, and yes, for many victims reporting the matter to the Church is often more about wanting an acknowledgement of hurt, an appology or even an admission that they have raised the matter and are taken seriously and are heard at last.
And yes, the Church can act without a judicial process, it can't laicise him but it can restrict his faculties in cases where there is reasonable, but unprovable, guilt or suspicion og guilt. In the Murphy case the CDF required of him an admission or acceptance of what he had done.

18 comments:

Dominic Mary said...

With every respect to our Fathers in God, I think the real problem is that they are about fifty years behind the times in this whole area.

The faithful used to be content to leave the discipline of the Church in the hands of the Clergy, and to know nothing about Canon Law.

Today, they still know nothing about Canon Law but - in a society which increasingly encourages people to be concerned about their 'rights', and is increasingly litigious - they are more interested in what is happening.

I think that some catechesis on Canon Law, even at a fairly low level, would be beneficial as a way of ensuring that - at the least - the faithful had some idea of what happens and how, and what their rights and duties in Canon Law are.

shadowlands said...

I know an elderly lady who confided to me, that she would not, indeed could not,go to confessions for many decades due to a priest's regular line of questioning as a child, during confessions that made her feel very ill at ease. I did manage to get a priest to hear her confession. She would never have spoken about it publicly though, as she wouldn't want to bring any scandal on the Church. Victims often feel it is Christ Himself they would be betraying or reporting. Victims of parental sexual abuse often find it hard to speak out, in case they hurt the other parent, so I suppose Catholic's loyalty to Mother Church may be similar or was similar anyway. Goodness knows what it will be now. Innocent priests are also victims of this abuse, and will no doubt have to unjustly take some of the flak.

Annoyed in Ireland said...

'...except perhaps if there is little evidence.'

And this is one of the problems with all of this. A member of my family has worked in this field for 15 years, in Ireland, as a clinical and forensic psychologist dealing with risk assessment and allegations of abuse against perpetrators (most of who are not clerics or religious).

In most cases the evidence is seriously lacking, and without an admission what does one do?

Oddly (well hardly when one thinks about of it rationally for a second or two) the clerics and religious tend to 'fess-up' a bit quicker and more regularly, unlike their secular compatriots.

I know, based on what I have seen and heard, that the church is a soft touch and easy target.

Not going straight to the civil authorities has really not helped, but then why should they when they didn't have the evidence? What were they to do when the civil authorities were not taking it seriously either (which I am sorry here they really didn't and still are slow to intervene in families it seems), or could do nothing for lack of evidence?

Compare it to prosecution and investigations in the civil sphere - I suspect you will find an even worse situation! It is not excusing responsibility - but dear Lord, we must put this all in context!

santoeusebio said...

Father you say:

I find it almost incredible that the parents of a child who had been raped or otherwise abused by a priest would not go to the civil auithorities and seek justice for their child.

I do not share that belief. First of all there are degrees of abuse not all of which are criminal. Secondly many, if not most Catholics, would complain to the Church authorities first, if only out of a sense of loyalty. Surely that is the normal thing to do? If you think some organisation has been doing something wrong you first complain to that organisation be it a shop, a company, a civil authority or a religious order.

The Church authorities should then consider whether a crime has been committed, take legal advice from lawyers conversant with such matters if necessary and if a crime is involved report it to the police. It has been the failure to respond to complaints that has caused the present scandal and it is something the Church needs to remedy - not just complaints about sexual abuse but any serious matter. As to secrecy there is a principle that justice not only needs to be done but it must be seen to be done. Public and Press scrutiny of any judicial process performs a very necessary role in seeing that justice is done. The Church must take that on board.

Nicolas Bellord

mum6kids said...

Father, I agree with your post, but for the last paragraph. I do understand parents who did not seek legal redress for their abused children.
I worked for Rape Crisis for a short while and have other experiences of children and young people, and adults who have suffered all kinds of abuse, grooming, sexual, physical, emotional etc.
Many parents saw what had happened to other rape victims and survivors as they went through the system and it was ugly.
Getting a conviction was extremely difficult and police, prosecutors and judges could be shockingly cruel even to younger victims.
I remember admitting to a group of police we were 'teaching' that (baring in mind the sickening views some of them had just displayed of "they ask for it" variety) I would not report to the police if my child was a victim. One of the DIs was shocked but later I told him quietly that I had seen what happened and putting systematic abuse on top of rape wasn't my idea of being a protective parent.

I know things began to change as the 90s came with rape suits and specially trained WPOs- but I still came across pretty bad practice and as far as I know even NOW it is really difficult to get a conviction. I do not doubt it is made more difficult when evidence is withheld.

GOR said...

While I am no defender of Ab. Weakland (quite the contrary!) and have questioned his credibility and trustworthiness, he did note that there was concern for the feelings of the victims and the school in the case. The concern was regarding publicity – that they didn’t want to be further embarrassed by the case being made public back in the 70s. Despite this, the civil authorities were involved at that time and did not proceed for lack of evidence. This lack may have been due to the time lapse, the refusal of victims to bring public charges or the inability to prove a case because of the ‘he said/he said’ nature of the charges.

What is sometimes forgotten in abuse cases is that the victims themselves, while they wanted the perpetrators removed, didn’t always want to be publicly identified and suffer further trauma – which is understandable. They expected the Church to deal with the offenders and ensure no further offenses. This, many dioceses failed to do - as we now know. They observed the victims’ request for anonymity, but didn’t decisively and expeditiously remove the offenders.

It was only when it became known that solicitation in the confessional was involved that Weakland raised the question of jurisdiction. Presumably this was not known back in the 70s when the case was originally tried in the diocesan tribunal. Thus this aspect belonged in the internal forum of the Church and subject to confidentiality.

While no one comes out of this smelling like roses, the slant of the New York Times (and all the other media who picked it up from them) that the Holy Father ‘knew and did nothing’ is deplorable but, unfortunately, predictable. I await Ab. Dolan’s response.

Lucy said...

I recently reported historical abuse - committed against me by a lay person when I was a young adult. Reporting it was the worst choice I ever made - if I had my time again, I would not go to the police. None of the changes and the specialist unit and the women police officers made any difference - their attitude seemed very clearly to be that I had done something to deserve it and was scum for not reporting it at the time. And, deep down, I feel like maybe I did "deserve it" and I feel deep shame that my inaction allowed the perpetrator to get away with it. To even imagine adding into the mix, that my abuser had been my priest and that I had been a child - I can't fathom how anyone could act rationally in those circumstances. My prayers are with the Holy Father and all true, good priests as well as the victims. And yes, I suppose for the abusers too.

Mark said...

The TIMES today reported that 8 months after the local Milwaukee Bishop reported this priest to Cardinal Ratzinger at the Vatican his assistant started an investigation which was terminated prematurely as Murphy himself pleaded he was very sick. He had repented and there was a concern it would bring the church unnecessary harm without any gain?? Some investigation !!!

suspicious said...

Who is behind this mischief ? The attempt to undermine the Holy Father is happily taken up by the media but in this case it is not unreasonable to speculate that it begins in the Weakland circle. The good bishop has not been the most faithful representative of the Church over the years. It would not surprise me if he or one of his cronies sees this as a way of advancing their liberal agenda. It's also irksome to see ex priest this and former nun that lining up for media interviews to chip in with their two penny worth .

Anonymous said...

Well, if the state had not unjustly usurped the criminal jurisdiction of the church, the local bishop would presumably be able to sentence such offenders to death (cf. the case of Giles de Rais - "Bluebeard").

So, the secular state ties the church's hands behind its back, and its minions then complain about ineffective action??

The Becket controversy settled this question in principle once and for all.

+ Albrecht von Brandenburg

+ A

David Wright said...

The whole correspondence regarding this dreadful situation can be read online. I don't think it is fair to blame Archbishop Weakland (Iam no fan believe me). When the evidence first came to his attention he was the one who insisted upon a penal trial. The letters show that he was very supportive of the victims and wanted justice.

Fr Ray Blake said...

David, I am merely suggesting that it is reasonable to expect the same level of proof for a priest tried before an ecclesiastical court as in any other trial. If Abp Weakland had that proof he had an obligation to present it to the civil authorities.

georgem said...

I would urge Mark and others to read online all the documents, all dated, before coming to any conclusion. They tell a rather different story from that which is beng headlined in the NYT, The Times and other media outlets.

It's always a good idea to go to primary sources for evidence rather than make a judgement on second-hand information which, in several instances, is erroneous.

It's one of the rare occasions when we are able to read all the primary source documents available. It is a pity that so many journalists haven't bothered to do it.

gemoftheocean said...

The Pugilist Priest in Australia has an interesting (and I think very plausible take on this) -- the NY Times and Obama are essentially in collusion on this to make the pope look bad, especially in Holy Week. The Church rejected Obama's Euthanasia, and forcing everyone to pay for abortions. It's essentially thugocracy. The NY Times dug up an old story they covered more than a decade ago and tried to make it look "new." By the time then Cardinal Ratzinger was informed some twenty years after the events were supposed to have taken place, the priest in question was dying, and did in fact die. He ALREADY wasn't functioning any longer as a priest. Weakland sat on the info for 20 years. Weakland, the guy who had his own problems.

Here's the article in question.

Sharon said...

Gem, what makes you think that the Pugilist Priest is Australian? I had a look and it reads like an American blog to me. BTW it is one of the most attractive blog layouts on the internet!

Mark I read that the investigation you spoke about started 3 months after Weakland reported the violation of the secrecy of the confessional to the Vatican. Cardinal Ratzinger decided not to proceed with the canonical trial knowing that the priest was elderly, ill and had not offended for 20 years. The priest died four months later. Decades earlier his crimes had been reported to the civil authorities who declined to prosecute and now say that the files have "gone missing."

terry said...

David Wright and georgem are correct in that you have to view the documents online at The New York Times website to get an accurate picture of what happened. The picture that comes out of the documents does not come anywhere near providing any basis for criticism against the Pope personally
What does come out of the documents must be a source of real embarrassment to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in this matter.
In December 1993 the Archdiocese commissioned an expert to examine Murphy. The Report is horrific. Rather surprisingly, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in December 1993 did not start the canonical process against Murphy when it received the expert`s report.
It would appear that it was only in December 1995 after the Archdiocese received claims from attorneys on behalf of clients and also representations from the deaf community that the then Archbishop set up an investigation.
The process only formally began on 10th December 1996 in the Tribunal in Milwaukee when the notification of process was served on Murphy.
There then followed a chapter of accidents.
In February 1997 the defence raised the plea that the proceedings were time barred according to Canon Law. Why the matter was not considered by the Milwaukee diocese before the proceedings were raised is not clear. In March 1997 the Archdiocese wrote to the Supreme Tribunal in Rome for a waiver. The Tribunal wrote back and said that the Archdiocese had applied to the wrong Congregation but would pass the request along to the right Congregation, the CDF. The waiver was granted by the CDF in March 1997
Sometime between May 1997 and October 1997 someone in Milwaukee realised that they had raised the action in the wrong Tribunal. The Milwaukee Tribunal did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. The case should have been heard by the Tribunal for the Diocese of Superior which was where Murphy was domiciled.
Murphy had been domiciled in the Diocese of Superior since 1974. For some reason the new proceedings in Superior did not start until December 1997. On 6th January 1998 the citation was served on Murphy by the Tribunal in Superior.
The explanation by the Archdiocese in January 1998 given to the victims of Murphy for the reason for delay and the change of venue by the Archdiocese is interesting.
When one reads the correspondence with the CDF and the memoranda of meetings between the CDF and the Archdiocese, one gets the impression of the CDF trying to delicately point out to the Archdiocese/Diocese where it was legally going wrong in terms of the relevant Canon Law. There were still some errors of law made by the now Diocese of Superior which were pointed out by the CDF. From the correspondence what Bertone and the officials in the CDF were trying to do was assist the Diocese and Archdiocese to deal with a very troublesome individual who was using his clerical status as a disguise to meet his perverted desires within the then existing framework of Canon Law.
The fundamental problem which the prosecution faced and which does not seem to have been appreciated by the Archdiocese at any time was that the acts of abuse on which they relied came from 1965-74, about thirty years previously.
It is perhaps a pity that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee did not seek expert help either from Canon Law experts in the USA or at the CDF as to how to deal with this difficult problem before embarking on a course of action involving a complex legal process in which the Archdiocese was obviously out of its depth. It was only when they were struggling in deep water in the middle of a course of action that they had to call on higher authorities for help.
Ask any lawyer how he or she feels being in that situation where he or she is asked to assist in such a situation of sorting out someone`s mess in the middle of a Court action.
That of course is why the Vatican had to change the rules in 2001: to bring all the actions to be dealt with by the Vatican and to allow cases to be dealt with summarily. And who was mainly responsible for that ?
Pope Benedict XVI

Mark said...

Can someone point me towards where the evidence lies suggesting this matter was ever brought to the Police's attention! To avoid sounding supportive of abuse, it is necessary for all good Catholics to categorically condemn this abuse & the cover-up! This is not the first allegation of it's kind in the church!!!! Scapegoating and pointing fingers is just giving our secular opponents more 'fodder'. It's time we accept this has happened and put our collective 'hands up' and accept it. Our community is in denial when we should be taking responsiblity and work to get future episodes brought to the Police's attention immediately with witness statements and all the evidence we can muster to get these monsters defrocked, successfully prosecuted and locked up, outta harms way. This may go some way to restoring some credibility in our church that we are sincere loving Christians & not cruel sadists!! Even Ab Nicholls has said, 'it's deeply shocking and totally unacceptable'!

gemoftheocean said...

Sharon, I say he is Austrilain, because I did a "whois search" on his domain name, it's registered to someone in Australia if you follow the chain. Point #2 is that NO American priest would call himself "the Parish Priest" -- he'd get a quizzical look over the phrase. A US priest would say he is the PASTOR of "X" parish. In the body of the letter Pugilist Priests references "PP" not for pugilist priest, but Parish priest.