Tag Archive | "Crimen sollicitationis"

Convenience Confessional: RH vs. Rape


With the resounding defeat of Church lobbyists on the matter of the RH Law, Fr. Melvin Castro of the CBCP said that he could at least thank the law’s proponent and principal author Albay Representative Edcel Lagman for one thing—because of the publicity of the RH debates, young Catholics are now confessing the sin of using contraception.

If you are familiar at all with the Catholic Church and its behavior regarding rapes by its employed priests, you would know that they view confession as so sacred that any part of it cannot even be used as testimony against a rapist. A priest hearing the confession of a rapist cannot be compelled to reveal that confession to authorities, secular or ecclesiastical. The priest is bound, upon pain of excommunication, never to speak of the secret.

Castro’s statements emphasize the complete hypocrisy and lack of human compassion of the Catholic Church, where it can just as easily break that sacrament when it can score cheap political points but never do it for its institution’s victims. Without revealing specifics, Castro, and whoever reported the confessions to him, broke that sacrament.

Of course, Castro denies breaking the sacramental seal. He says the identity of the penitent must be “publicly” revealed in order for the seal to be truly violated. It appears that the sins you tell your priest are fair game for gossip as long as they don’t tell everyone your name. If only the Church would exploit such technicalities to support police investigating rapist priests.

 

Where There’s Gold…

The sacrament of confession is a particularly strange relic marking the ancient and bygone political powers of the Catholic Church. Through this sacrament, priests are told by penitents, both the small and the powerful, their deepest darkest secrets, for the guarantee that they will be forgiven by God. Needless to say, the confessional is a goldmine for blackmail and coercion. It was particularly useful in discovering the Katipunero rebellion during the Philippine Revolution.

The confessional is a very intimate place. It is at this place the faithful are most vulnerable as they are encouraged not to hold anything back. In fact, it is itself a mortal sin to willfully keep any grievous evil from a priest during confession, as an earnest confession clears one’s soul of any wrongdoing.

Assuming you don’t sin on the way, if you get hit by a car going out of Church after confession, you are going straight to heaven—no purgatory necessary. The confessional is where priests have believers by the balls. This is true both figuratively and literally.

 

The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most

Dave Rudofsky was 8 years old in the 1980’s. Like most Catholic children his age, he would soon prepare for receiving the literal body of Jesus Christ in the form of bread. This means he first has to clean the vessel that is his body by confessing all his sins in his first holy confession. His confessor, Rev. James Burnett took advantage of the 8 year-old’s vulnerability and molested him.

Cases like Dave’s have become so frequent that Pope John Paul II issued the encyclical Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela in 2001. This updated Crimen sollicitationis, released in 1962 during Pope John XXIII’s tenure, which tackled the problem of priests using the confessional for the purpose of sexual activity. Among those outlined as “grave delicts” or violations of canon law in Sacramentorum was “Solicitation to sin with the confessor against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, in the act of, context of or pretext of the Sacrament of Penance.” This was reinforced by the head of the Inquisition, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in De delictis gravioribus.

However, in addition to condemning rapist priests using the confessional to, for example, forgive sexual partners of the sins they commit together, these statements also reiterate the inviolability of the seal of the sacrament of confession. No one must ever reveal what goes on during confession, even if it means justice for a rape victim. This would be a “direct violation of the sacramental seal.”

Though Castro argues that he and his cohorts did not break the sacramental seal, it can be argued that they did so indirectly. The sacramental seal is so deeply regarded that Crimen itself states that during canonical trials conducted to investigate rapes, any testimony that might even “suggest a direct or indirect violation of the seal” will be thrown out of the case and will not be recorded (Crimen sollicitationis, Chapter III(52)). Castro’s political grandstanding surely suggests at least an indirect violation. More to the point, regardless of any technical wrongdoing under canon law, Castro shows the moral cowardice of the Church and its employees—revealing some confessions when expedient while keeping others when inconvenient.

 

The Secret’s in the Telling

Doctors enjoy physician-patient privilege. They do not reveal the contents of their consultations with patients with anyone, upon pain of having their license revoked. This is to make sure there is a culture of trust between doctors and patients; it improves the medical relationship, which results in more accurate diagnoses. The same could be said as the motivation behind the sacramental seal, but at a far grander and cosmic scale. However, doctors are still obliged by secular law to report information to the police if their patients pose a threat to society, among other situations. Priests do not have such ethical or legal duties to the nations they operate in. Their duty is to the king in the Vatican first.

The Church does not care about the harm it causes society (indeed, denies it) and does everything it takes, even going against their own principles, to make sure their institution survives for centuries to come. The Catholic Church has consistently used the seal of the confessional as a defense against criminal investigation of rapist priests. Melvin Castro reveals what this defense truly is—a sham and an abuse of religious freedom.

This Lent, think about whether you can trust your priest with your sins. Think about Dave the next time you walk into a confessional. From the start, the Church has acted as if its hands have been bound with supernatural chains, unable to help rape victims by disclosing details revealed during confessions. Castro’s statements expose that these chains are imaginary. Goodness knows what other imaginary things they tell the faithful.

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The Vatican, a Rogue Pseudo-State, Part 2


This discussion of The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse is a continuation of The Vatican, A Rogue Pseudo-State, Part 1.

Even if, however, the Vatican were an actual state, its international trafficking of child molesters and hiding rapists from the law via its secretive Canonical trials within sovereign nations breach the secular laws of those particular nations.

Crimen sollicitationis outlines how these trials must go. Once an accusation against a priest has been made, the accuser is made to sign an official denunciation against the accused. This begins the Canonical proceedings regulated by Canon Law, which is based on what the Vatican perceives as moral and spiritual commandments from the Holy Spirit. Thus, all participants are bound by “pontifical secret” upon pain of excommunication. The trial does not admit forensic evidence and is conducted entirely in writing. Those who run the trial are all colleagues of the defendant and it is a requirement for all those handling the trial to have undergone the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Right off the bat, the odds are in favor of the accused.

Should the allegations be found unsubstantiated, the documents are all destroyed. If the charges are of some merit, but judged to be inconclusive, they are kept in the archives. If evidence of the crime is “grave enough,” several punishments are in order. However, none are more severe than laicization, or the demotion of a priest to the lay state. This is a penalty that is apparently so dreadful that even Pope Benedict would not inflict it on Father Lawrence Murphy who molested over two hundred deaf children at St John’s School for the Deaf in Wisconsin. Even in the case of conviction, there is nothing in Canon Law that compels officials to file a criminal case against the offending priest. The punishment for leaking documents is a lot more grave than what any depraved child rapist like Father Murphy could ever possibly get.

According to the “new norms” sent out in 2001 as Sacramentorum sanctitatus tutela, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the successor to the Inquisition and the former office of Joseph Ratzinger, heads Canonical trials concerning child molestation cases, particularly those that involve the confessional. The CDF is informed of all these proceedings by the local Church, which conducts the trials, under strict confidentiality and subject to the pontifical secret. This was reinforced by Pope Benedict in De delictis gravioribus.

The Roman Catholic Church performs these confidential trials under the noses of the sovereign states within which the specific churches operate. In doing so, an alleged foreign sovereign state (the Vatican) tries foreign nationals on foreign soil. This comes into conflict with the jurisdiction exercised by the host state. What’s more is that, since all relevant documents are kept under pontifical secret, few believing Catholics would dare to blow the whistle or report to proper authorities the crimes that occur within the Church. Let us remember that excommunication carries with it grave consequences that may or may not result in everlasting torture in the fires of hell. Should the police have the opportunity, however, to investigate, the relevant documents are often whisked away into the safety of the Vatican archives where they cannot be subpoenaed due to diplomatic immunity.

While the rape of children is unequivocally disgusting and reprehensible, the true crimes that the Church, the Vatican, and the pope are liable for are their gross negligence, such as in its shuffling of priests to various parishes where they have sinned again, and their operation of a secret international legal jurisdiction that disregards local laws (including the withholding of evidence from proper authorities). To make matters worse, Canonical trials are ineffective and non-punitive.

The scale of the Vatican’s indulgence of its employees’ raping and sexual slavery of children is cause for concern. It might even qualify as a crime against humanity, something not even diplomatic immunity can defend against. Thousands of children all over the world have been tortured and abused by the very ministers and confessors that they had given their complete trust. These men who stand in for Christ at the point of consecration were allowed by the Church’s policies to get away with their crimes and to transgress in some other parish.

The Catholic Church has maintained that the cause of their crisis is not their refusal to cooperate with police or their obsession with controlling and denying the sex lives of its members, particularly its clergy. The pope’s right hand man, Tarcisio Bertone, asserts that homosexuality is the reason for pedophiles in the Church. The pope himself blames secular society, saying that, in the 1970’s, it accepted pedophilia as “fully in conformity with man and even with children.”

The Holy See governs the Vatican as a rogue pseudo-state that seems to be convinced that it is above international law. While the point whether the Catholic Church hierarchy is guilty of crimes against humanity is up to international criminal courts, they should at least be allowed to put the pope on the dock. The Church cannot hide behind its Santa Claus statehood for much longer. Just because many nations officially believe that the Vatican is a state, it doesn’t make it true.

In The Case of the Pope, Geoffrey Robertson QC details an effective examination of the viability of the Vatican’s assertion of statehood and the pope’s declaration of diplomatic immunity as well as the liability of his organization in the revolting sexual abuse of children by the clergy under its employ. Robertson skillfully conveys complicated legalese to lay audiences without oversimplifying the admittedly difficult nature of international law and the politics of foreign relations. It is an articulate analysis of the Vatican and the apparent crusade it is waging against human rights. Even if you are a Catholic, if truly love what you believe your Church stands for, do not give this book a pass.

The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse by Geoffrey Robertson QC is published by Penguin Global.

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