A higher standard

A higher standard

An op-ed in the LA Times says the Vatican “blinked in the face of evil”, referring to the revisions to the Dallas policy. It’s a ridiculous screed that makes outrageous claims.

For instance, the author calls the Code of Canon Law “an archaic standard of justice.” On the one hand, it’s hardly archaic since it was completely revised and updated in 1983. The US Constitution is centuries older than that; is too archaic? Of course, canon law’s roots go back much further, to the law of ancient Rome, but then so does US law, taking detours through old England and ancient Greece.

The author faults the revisions to the Dallas policy, saying they “gut the intent of the get tough policy”:

    Among other things, the group emphasized priests’ rights of presumed innocence, and it clarified the definition of sexual abuse.

Good Lord! A presumption of innocence? A clarified definition of the crime? The barbarians! How dare they provide a system of justice on par with that of the civil courts?! Ironically, how many of these same people were crying out about Bill Clinton’s presumption of innocence when his own misdeeds in office were clear? He also brings up the 10-year statute of limitations. Don’t most states have a statute of limitations? Isn’t there a logical reason for it—namely that evidence and eyewitness accounts lose their potency with the passage of time, that proving the case becomes more difficult, not less. At some point, a fair investigation of the accusations cannot be done.

The writer also complains that the lay review boards have been “emasculated” and reduced to advisory status. They never had any more status than that. No one but the local ordinary and the Pope has the authority to discipline a priest and no review board, whether full of lay people or clergy was going to be able to strip a priest of his ministry or priestly faculties. The new language is just a clarification of that reality. A priest functions as an extension of the bishop and it is only the bishop who can strip him of that.

The writer goes on and on, citing what he says are examples that the Vatican’s system of secret tribunals and investigations is the problem and that the “brave” US bishops tried to fix the system, but won’t be allowed to by the “oppressive” Vatican curia. Incidentally, many of the same US bishops are the same ones who allowed the abusers to remain in ministry. They had the means to deal with abusers years ago and still do. The Dallas policy is no more than an attempt to mollify critics and set up a system by which some bishops can say, “Stop me before I allow a pedophile to abuse again.”

By the way, this line was priceless: “For years, the Vatican tried to reduce the power of national bishops’ conferences as the American hierarchy issued visionary pastoral letters on nuclear arms and economic ethics.” Visionary? I don’t think so. Perhaps, if the bishops spent as much time and energy on evangelization, catchesis, and sexual morality, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.