Friday, 26 March 2010

Mis-reporting ....

A headline in The Times today: "This Pope does not do mea culpas, but it may prove his only way out". And the last paragraph of the report to which that is the headline: "It is not in the Pope's nature - he abhorred the 'mea culpas' issued by John Paul II, his predecessor - but it may be the only way out".
In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel. At the same time, I ask you not to lose hope. [Pope Benedict XVI's Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, n.6]
From a report in The Times today: "But instead of being defrocked and the police called in, it is alleged that Father Murphy avoided justice and remained a member of the Church after a key intervention by the Pope - then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger".

At the time Archbishop Rembrandt Weakland wrote to the Vatican in connection with the case of Father Murphy, the civil authorities had already investigated Father Murphy and had not proceeded to a prosecution or conviction. So the suggestion of "non-reporting to the police" is a complete red herring, and one that it is quite incorrect for victims groups to be taking up and promoting in the media (cf reporting on p.6 of today's Times). It would be interesting to know whether or not there are any criticisms being addressed to the police and legal authorities who dealt with the civil investigation, as, prima facie, there seems to be questions that could be asked about that investigation.

I listened to Archbishop Rembrandt Weakland's interview as broadcast on Radio 4's "PM" programme yesterday. For the next six days, you can listen to it on the BBC i-player, from this page. I found Archbishop Weakland's words to be largely an account of the events involved, and not in any way an attempt to attack the Pope. His interview, and the statement from the Vatican, give a clearly compatible account of the events.

Neither of them, either together or separately, justify the accusation (which was not made by Archbishhop Weakland in his PM interview, and has not been made by him so far as I am aware in any other context) that Cardinal Ratzinger knew about the case and took no action, and thereby engaged in an action of covering up of abuse. What Archbishop Weakland sought from the canonical process at the Sacred Congregation for Doctrine was the laicisation of Fr Murphy, and his motivation for that, expressed very carefully in his PM interview, was a pastoral concern for the feelings of the deaf community to which Fr Murphy had exercised his priestly office (this is an interesting aspect of Archbishop Weakland's interview to listen to). Archbishop Weakland does not articulate it in his interview, but there is also a sense that this would have been an act of justice towards those who had been affected by Fr Murphy's abuse. The outcome of the canonical process, described more fully in the statement from the Vatican than in media outlets, was NOT a lack of action. It was not the laicisation that Archbishop Weakland sought, but neither was it inaction. The outcome was to ask the diocesan authorities to reinforce ecclesiastical restrictions that were already in place against Fr Murphy. According to ZENIT's report of the Vatican statement:
The meeting participants noted that there were also "not enough elements to instruct a canonical trial," but nonetheless stated that the diocese should remove the offending priest from the celebration of the Eucharist and consider "penal remedies."

So what are the criticisms that are implicit in the account of events in Archbishop Weakland's interview? One is delay in response from the Sacred Congregation for Doctrine to his letters and request for a canonical trial - but Archbishop Weakland recognises that everyone involved in those times failed to act as quickly as they should have done, including Archbishop Weakland himself, who recognises in the interview that he should have moved on Fr Murphy something like ten years earlier than he did.  It is also apparent in his PM interview that Archbishop Weakland would have liked Fr Murphy to have been laicised before his death because of the pastoral implications of this for the deaf community, but that the Vatican dicastery chose to suggest other penalties instead. But all of this is taking place many years after the civil authorities have decided not to prosecute a case against Fr Murphy.

In his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, Pope Benedict refers to a need to establish the truth of events that have occurred (n.5). I listened to Archbishop Weakland's interview with this sense of what he was doing in that interview.

PS. Another aspect of today's media coverage is opportunistic efforts by liberal minded Catholics to attack the hierarchical structure of the Church, in favour of lay authority. According to a letter in today's Times: "If the Church in Europe and North America is to survive, never mind prosper, the laity need to throw off clergy-induced infantilism, raise their heads above the parapet and demand a new reformation". I have been a Catholic for more years than I can remember (decode: cradle Catholic who didn't lapse in teenage years), and have yet to really encounter the infantilism referred to here. Perhaps someone could show me some of it ...

1 comment:

Hippolytus said...

This morning I watched a dreadful interview on the BBC with their "Rome Correspondent" David Willey. He seemed determined to blacken Pope Benedict and silver-tongued gave a most misleading account. He ended by smuggly saying that the Pope 'needed a spin doctor'. It seems to me that all the Pope 'needs' is accurate reporting and not the biased, factually inept slurs of David Willey.