A diplomatic case

A diplomatic case

Just when you think the worst may be over and the bishops have finally gotten it, something pops up to prove you wrong. Case in point: the Vatican has consistently elevated a priest in the diplomatic corps that many high-ranking officials knew had sexually abused a girl. Someone from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati twice warned Bishop James Harvey, an American who heads the papal household, about Msgr. Daniel Pater, but Harvey says although he did know there was a problem, he didn’t know the details. Perhaps he had an obligation find out the details after he found out there was a problem.

Pater was accused of abusing a young girl who had suffered the loss of her brother and even after he was shuffled off to the diplomatic corps in the early 1980s, the abuse ocntinued. In 1995, there was a settlement of a lawsuit with the victim. But despite last year’s one-strike-you’re-out policy and the Pope’s famous words that there is no place in the priesthood for someone who would abuse a child, and despite several warnings to the Vatican, Pater remained in his post until the story broke recently.

Despite Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk’s comforting words back in 1992 that one case “of sa priest sexually abusing a child is one too many,” it didn’t seem to be that way for the victim. Pater was coddled and allowed to continue his diplomatic career.

While I would agree with Bishop Harvey that Pater’s job as a diplomat did not place him in regular contact with children as part of his ministry, it was still scandalous, and at the very least someone at the Vatican last year should have said, “Do we have any of these guys working here? Let’s get them out.”

The victim said that despite her misgivings about people in the Cincinnati archdiocese, she still had faith in the Vatican, by which I presume she means the Pope. But now she’s not sure.

Unless Rome gets tough(er) on this whole topic, more and more people will begin to conclude that it isn’t just the Us bishops that are the problem, but that it goes deeper and higher. And that the Scandal isn’t over yet.

  • The problem’s tentacles reach into lots of corners, but it seems to me the monster’s lair is in the bureaucracy of the Vatican. If ever an institution needed real reform, an airing out, it’s that place. ‘Pit’ and ‘black hole’ are the ready metaphors. It’s an institution that has no clear place in the collegial hierarchy, but that has grown, tumor-like, since Vatican I. In some things, it’s useful, but in most, it’s not.

  • RC,

    I think the Milingo case is a little different from the other cases. He publicly recanted in the presence of the Pope and spent a year in a monastic retreat under the direction of the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. And now he’s in a position, not of public preaching, but of minor service to the Church. And most importantly, his wasn’t a case of sexual abuse.

    I think that in many matters, the harshest penalties are not required.