April 4, 2010 - Those of us who have worked on legal cases involving sex abuse of minors by Catholic bishops and priests have seen this signature on a number of documents we have had to review. Cardinal Ratzinger, notwithstanding his good intentions, has acted repeatedly according to the pattern and practice amply described in U.S. court records, victims' testimonies, journalistic accounts beginning with Jason Berry and the National Catholic Reporter in 1985, recent Grand Jury Reports, and the church's own files, etc. etc. etc. All these sources and more document cover up to avoid scandal and to preserve clerical image in preference to protecting children. Words have changed. The pattern and practice have not.
Cardinal Levada who now occupies Ratzinger's post as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith left a trail of transfers of abusive priests across the country and more. The Zero Tolerance policy much touted by the American bishops as their moral high ground is in reality a swamp of reassignments and further clerical hiding. A glaring loophole exists in the U.S. decree - it does not include abusive bishops who continue without containment until the waters public exposure and scandal rise so high even the Vatican cannot keep dry.
Examples: Cardinal Groer of Vienna and Fr. Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ were known abusers long before Rome took any action. Lesser publicized clerics i.e. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Bishop Robert Brom have yet to attract Vatican attention.
April 20, 2008
Your Holiness, I, Richard Sipe, approach you reluctantly to speak about the problem of sexual abuse by priests and bishops in the United States, but I am encouraged and prompted by the directive of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, Chapter IV, No. 37. “By reason of knowledge, competence…the laity are empowered—indeed sometimes obliged—to manifest their opinion on those things that pertain to the good of the Church.” And also moved by your heartfelt demonstration of concern for victims on your recent visit to the United States I bring to your attention a dimension of the crisis not yet addressed. It is closer to the systemic center of the problem and one most difficult for you to address.
As the crisis of sexual abuse of our children and vulnerable adults by priests and bishops in the United States is unfolding the dynamics of this dysfunction are becoming painfully clear.
This sexual aberration is not generated from the bottom up—that is only from unsuitable candidates—but from the top down—that is from the sexual behaviors of superiors, even bishops and cardinals.
The problem facing us in the American church is systemic. I will present Your Holiness with only a few examples:
Bishop Thomas Lyons, now deceased, who was an Auxiliary in the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. groomed, seduced, and sexually abused a boy from the time he was seven years old until he was seventeen. When that boy grew into manhood he in turn abused his own child and young relatives. When I asked him about his actions he said to me, “I thought it was natural. Father (Lyons) told me a priest showed him this when he was growing up.” A pattern was perpetuated for at least four generations.
Abbot John Eidenschink of St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota sexually abused some of his young monks during confession and spiritual direction. He admitted this behavior in regard to two of the monks I interviewed. They described the behavior in disturbingly graphic detail. Older monks that I interviewed told me that they knew that John’s Novice Master was inappropriately affectionate with him during his two years as a novice. More than a dozen of the monks of this monastery have been credibly accused of abuse of minors while Abbot Eidenschink was promoted to President of his Monastic Congregation, the American Cassinese.
While I was Adjunct Professor at a Pontifical Seminary, St. Mary’s Baltimore (1972-1984) a number of seminarians came to me with concerns about the behavior of Theodore E. McCarrick then bishop of Metuchen New Jersey. It has been widely known for several decades that Bishop/Archbishop now Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick took seminarians and young priests to a shore home in New Jersey, sites in New York, and other places and slept with some of them. He established a coterie of young seminarians and priests that he encouraged to call him “Uncle Ted.” I have his correspondence where he referred to these men as being “cousins” with each other.
Catholic journalist Matt C. Abbott already featured the statements of two priests (2005) and one ex-priest (2006) about McCarrick. All three were "in the know" and aware of the Cardinal McCarrick’s activities in the same mode as I had heard at the seminary. None of these reporters, as far as Abbott knew, had sexual contact with the cardinal in the infamous sleepovers, but one had first hand reports from a seminarian/priest who did share a bed and received cards and letters from McCarrick. The modus operendi is similar to the documents and letters I have received from a priest who describes in detail McCarrick’s sexual advances and personal activity. At least one prominent journalist at the Boston Globe was aware of McCarrick from his investigation of another priest, but until now legal documentation has not been available. And even at this point the complete story cannot be published because priest reporters are afraid of reprisals.
I know the names of at least four priests who have had sexual encounters with Cardinal McCarrick. I have documents and letters that record the first hand testimony and eye witness accounts of McCarrick, then archbishop of Newark, New Jersey actually having sex with a priest, and at other times subjecting a priest to unwanted sexual advances.
Your Holiness, you must seek out and listen to the stories, as I have from many priests about their seduction by highly placed clerics, and the dire consequences in their lives that does not end in their victimization alone.
Such behavior fosters confusion and makes celibacy problematic for seminarians and priests. This abuse paves the way for them to pass the tradition on—to have sex with each other and even with minors.
The pattern and practice of priests in positions of responsibility for the training of men for the priesthood—rectors, confessors, spiritual directors, novice masters, and other clergy—who have sexual relations with seminarians and other priests is rampant in the Catholic Church in the United States. I have reviewed hundreds of documents that record just such behavior and interviewed scores of priests who have suffered from this activity. Priests, sexually active in the above manner have frequently been appointed by the Vatican to be ordained bishops or even created cardinals.
I approach Your Holiness with due reverence, but with the same intensity that motivated Peter Damian to lay out before your predecessor, Pope Leo IX, a description of the condition of the clergy during his time. The problems he spoke of are similar and as great now in the United States as they were then in Rome. If Your Holiness requests I will submit to you personally documentation of that about which I have spoken.
Your Holiness, I submit this to you with urgent concern for our Church, especially for the young and our clergy.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger - 2001
This Letter of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was sent from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to Bishops of the entire Catholic Church and to other interested Ordinaries and Hierarchs, entitled: On More Grave Delicts Reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Vatican City 2001(Unofficial Translation by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)
In order to fulfill the ecclesiastical law which states in article 52 of the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia: "[The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] examines delicts against faith and more grave delicts both against morals and committed in the celebration of the sacraments, which have been reported to it, and, if necessary, proceeds to declare or impose canonical sanctions according to the norm of common or proper law,"
It was necessary first to define the method of proceeding in delicts against the faith: this was accomplished through the norms entitled Agendi ratio in doctrinarum examine, ratified and confirmed by the Supreme Pontiff, Pope John Paul II, together with articles 28-29 approved in forma specifica.
At approximately the same time the Congregation for the Faith, through an ad hoc Commission established, devoted itself to a diligent study of the canons on delicts, both of the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, in order to determine "more grave delicts both against morals and in the celebration of the sacraments" and in order to make special procedural norms "to declare or impose canonical sanctions”, because the Instruction Crimen sollicitationis, issued by the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office on March 16,1962, in force until now, was to be reviewed when the new canonical Codes were promulgated.
POPE JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus, On the Roman Curia, June 28, 1988, art. 52, in AAS 90 (1988) 874. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Agendi ratio in doctrinarum, June 29, 1997, in AAS 89 (1997) 830-835.(3) Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, Instruction Crimen sollicitationis, To all Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops, and other local ordinaries "even of the Oriental Rite": On the matter of proceeding in cases of solicitation, March 16, 1962, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis,1962.
Having carefully considered opinions and having made the appropriate consultations, the work of the Commission finally was completed. The Fathers of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith examined the Commission's work carefully and submitted to the Supreme Pontiff conclusions on the determination of more gave delicts and the manner of proceeding to declare or impose sanctions, with the exclusive competence in this of the Apostolic Tribunal of this Congregation remaining firm.
All these things, approved by the Supreme Pontiff himself, were confirmed and promulgated by the Apostolic Letter given motu proprio beginning with the words Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela. The more grave delicts both in the celebration of the sacraments and against morals, reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, are: Delicts against the sanctity of the most august Eucharistic Sacrifice and the sacraments, namely: taking or retaining the consecrated species for a sacrilegious purpose, or throwing them away; attempting the liturgical action of the Eucharistic Sacrifice or simulating the same.
[Cf. Code of Canon Law, can.1367; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, can.1442. Cf. Also Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts: Response to proposed doubt, June 4, 1999.(5) Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1378 § 2 n. 1 and 1379; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, can.1443.]
A delict against morals, namely: the delict committed by a cleric against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue with a minor below the age of eighteen years. Only these delicts, which are indicated above with their definition, are reserved to the Apostolic Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. As often as an ordinary or hierarch has at least probable knowledge of a reserved delict, after he has carried out the preliminary investigation, he is to indicate it to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which, unless it calls the case to itself because of special circumstances of things, after transmitting appropriate norms, orders the ordinary or hierarch to proceed ahead through his own tribunal. The right of appealing against a sentence of the first instance, whether on the part of the party or the party's legal representative, or on the part of the promoter of justice, solely remains valid only to the Supreme Tribunal of this Congregation. It must be noted that the criminal action on delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is extinguished by a prescription of ten years. The prescription runs according to the universal and common law; however, in the delict perpetrated with a minor by a cleric, the prescription begins to run from the day when the minor has completed the eighteenth year of age. In tribunals established by ordinaries or hierarchs, the functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary, and legal representative can validly be performed for these cases only by priests. When the trial in the tribunal is finished in any fashion, all the acts of the case are to be transmitted ex officio as soon as possible to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Cf. Code of Canon Law, can 1362 § 1 n 1: Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, can. 1152 § 2, n. 1.(12) Cf. Code of Canon Law, cam 1362 § 2; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, can. 11525 § 3.
All tribunals of the Latin Church and of the Eastern Catholic Churches are bound to observe the canons on delicts and penalties and also on the penal process of both Codes respectively, together with the special norms which are transmitted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for an individual case and which are to be executed entirely.
Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret.
Through this Letter, sent by mandate of the Supreme Pontiff to all the Bishops of the Catholic Church, to superiors general of clerical religious institutes of pontifical right and clerical societies of apostolic life of pontifical right, and to other interested ordinaries and hierarchs, it is hoped not only that more grave delicts will be entirely avoided, but especially that ordinaries and hierarchs have solicitous pastoral care to look after the holiness of the clergy and the faithful even through necessary sanctions.
Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, May 18, 2001.
+ Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect
+ Tharsicius Bertone, S.D.A., Archbishop Emeritus of Vercelli, Secretary
On the crisis management of the Pope and the German Bishops‘ Conference
After Archbishop Zollitsch’s recent papal audience, he spoke of the Pope’s “great shock” and “profound agitation” over the many cases of abuse which are coming to light. The Chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference asked pardon of the victims and spoke again about the measures that have already been taken or will soon be taken. But neither he nor the Pope have addressed the real question that can no longer be put aside. According to the latest Emnid- poll, only 10% of those interviewed in Germany believe that the Church is doing enough in dealing with this scandal; on the contrary, 86% charge the Church’s leadership with insufficient willingness to come to grips with the problem. The bishops’ denial that there is any connection between the celibacy rule and the abuse problem can only confirm their criticism.
1st Question: Why does the Pope continue to assert that what he calls “holy” celibacy is a “precious gift”, thus ignoring the biblical teaching that explicitly permits and even encourages marriage for all office holders in the Church? Celibacy is not “holy”; it is not even “fortunate”; it is “unfortunate”, for it excludes many perfectly good candidates from the priesthood and forces numerous priests out of their office, simply because they want to marry. The rule of celibacy is not a truth of faith, but a church law going back to the 11th Century; it should have been abolished already in the 16th Century, when it was trenchantly criticized by the Reformers.
Honesty demands that the Pope, at the very least, promise to rethink this rule – something the vast majority of the clergy and laity have wanted for a long time now. Both Alois Glück, the President of the Central Committee of the German Catholics and Hans-Jochen Jaschke, Auxiliary Bishop of Hamburg, have called for a less uptight attitude towards sexuality and for the coexistence of celibate and married priests in the Church
2nd Question: Is it true, as Archbishop Zollitsch insists, that „all the experts“ agree that abuse of minors by clergymen and the celibacy rule have nothing to do with each other? How can he claim to know the opinions of “all the experts”? In fact, there are numerous psychotherapists and psychoanalysts who see a connection here. The celibacy law obliges the priest to abstain from all forms of sexual activity, though their sexual impulses remain virulent, and thus the danger exists that these impulses might be shifted into a taboo zone and compensated for in abnormal ways.
Honesty demands that we take the correlation between abuse and celibacy seriously. The American psychotherapist Richard Sipe has clearly demonstrated, on the basis of a 25 year study published in 2004 under the title Knowledge of sexual activity and abuse within the clerical system of the Roman Catholic church, that the celibate way of life can indeed reinforce pedophile tendencies, especially when the socialization leading to it, i.e. adolescence and young adulthood spent in minor and major seminary cut off from the normal experiences of their peer groups, is taken into account. In his study, Sipe found retarded psycho-sexual development occurring more frequently in celibate clerics than in the average population. And often, such deficits in psychological development and sexual tendencies only become evident after ordination.
3rd Question: Instead of merely asking pardon of the victims of abuse, should not the bishops at last admit their own share of blame? For decades, they have not only tabooed the celibacy issue but also systematically covered up cases of abuse with the mantle of strictest secrecy, doing little more than re-assigning the perpetrators to new ministries. In a statement of 16 March, Bishop Ackermann of Trier, special delegate of the German Bischops’ Conference for sexual abuse cases, has publically acknowledged the existence of such a cover-up, but characteristically he put the blame not on the Church as institution, but rather on the individual perpetrators and the false considerations of their superiors. Protection of their priests and the reputation of the Church was evidently more important to the bishops than protection of minors. Thus, there is an important difference between the individual cases of abuse surfacing in schools outside the Catholic Church and the systematic and correspondingly more frequent cases of abuse within the Catholic Church, where, now as before, an uptight, rigoristic sexual morality prevails, that finds its culmination in the law of celibacy.
Honesty demands that the Chairman of the German Bishops‘ Conference should have clearly and definitively announced, that, in the future, the hierarchy will cease to deal with cases of criminal acts committed by those in the service of the Church by circumventing the state system of justice. Can it be that the hierarchy here in Germany will only wake up when it is confronted with demands for reparation payments in terms of millions of Euros? In the USA, the Catholic Church had to pay some 1,3 billion Dollars alone in 2006; in Ireland, the government helped the religious orders set up a compensation fund with a ruinous sum of 2.1 billion Euros. Such sums say much more about the dimensions of the problem than the pooh-poohing statistics about the small percentage of celibate clergy among the general population of abusers.
4th Question: Is it not time for Pope Benedict XVI himself to acknowledge his share of responsibility, instead of whining about a campaign against his person? No other person in the Church has had to deal with so many cases of abuse crossing his desk. Here some reminders:
− In his eight years as a professor of theology in Regensburg, in close contact with his brother Georg, the capellmeister of the Regensburger Domspatzen, Ratzinger can hardly have been ignorant about what went on in the choir and its boarding-school. This was much more than an occasional slap in the face, there are charges of serious physical violence and even sexual abuse.
− In his five years as Archbishop of Munich, repeated cases of sexual abuse at least by one priest transferred to his Archdiocese have come to light. His loyal Vicar General, my classmate Gerhard Gruber, has taken full responsibility for the handling of this case, but that is hardly an excuse for the Archbishop, who is ultimately responsible for the administration of his diocese.
− In his 24 years as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, from around the world, all cases of grave sexual offences by clerics had to be reported, under strictest secrecy (“secretum pontificum”), to his curial office, which was exclusively responsible for dealing with them. Ratzinger himself, in a letter on “grave sexual crimes” addressed to all the bishops under the date of 18 May, 2001, warned the bishops, under threat of ecclesiastical punishment, to observe “papal secrecy” in such cases.
− In his five years as Pope, Benedict XVI has done nothing to change this practice with all its fateful consequences.
Honesty demands that Joseph Ratzinger himself, the man who for decades has been principally responsible for the world-wide cover-up, at last pronounce his own “mea culpa”. As Bishop Tebartz van Elst of Limburg, in a radio address on 14 March, 2010, put it: “Scandalous wrongs cannot be glossed over or tolerated, we need a change of attitude that makes room for the truth. Conversion and repentance begin when guilt is openly admitted, when contrition is expressed in deeds and manifested as such, when responsibility is taken, and the chance for a new beginning is seized upon.”