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The Weblog at The View from the Core - Fri. 12/13/02 11:57:00 AM
"Pontiff Libel Watch"
Canonist Pete Vere, blogging at Catholic Light, seems to agree with my assessment of the term "previous condition":
.... I should also point out that this is a standard request when a priest is reduced to the lay state, regardless of the reason for the reduction to the lay state, or whether or not the reduction is voluntary on the part of the priest. Thus I would assume that the word "his condition", in keeping with canonical Tradition, refers to his laicization, and not to the crime which led to his laicization. Again, this is pretty standard canonical jargon when a priest is laicized....
I am concerned about the long-term implications of this: Catholics will have to be defending the pope from this stupid misrepresentation of the facts from now until Kingdom Come. To wit, see this Reuters article in a New Zealand newspaper yesterday.
We can see from that article that the New York Post article was even more profoundly stupid than I had already thought: at the time the pope was supposedly endangering children, the defrocked priest in question was serving two consecutive four-to-eight year prison sentences.
It's time for the New York Post to (1) issue a retraction and (2) apologize to the pope, to Catholics, and to their readers for publishing such a reckless accusation.
But let me also note the role played by "Catholics" in this debacle, from an MSNBC article yesterday:
‘SMOKING GUN’ ALLEGED
Pressure continued to build on Law after critics claimed Tuesday that had uncovered a “smoking gun” that showed that Law and other U.S. Catholic leaders who have been accused of covering up sex-abuse allegations were acting on the pope’s orders.
A group called the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors said it had come across the document from among thousands of personnel files the Boston archdiocese made public last week. A court hearing lawsuits against the archdiocese had ordered the release.
Joseph Gallagher, a co-founder of the group, said the document spelled out a Vatican policy of placing image ahead of child welfare.
In the document, John Paul says that a defrocked Catholic priest who had a history of molesting boys should leave the areas where his “condition” was known — or stay put as long as it caused no scandal.
“That would explain why [other] bishops have done the same thing as Cardinal Law — they’ve moved sexual offenders from parish to parish without notifying the parishioners,” Gallagher said.
The May 25, 1999, document is a translation of the pope’s order removing Robert Burns, a convicted pedophile, from the priesthood.
Donna Morrissey, a Boston archdiocese spokeswoman, said she could not comment on matters of litigation.
Roderick MacLeish, a Boston lawyer who last week released the archdiocese’s file on Burns along with those of other priests accused of sexual misconduct, said the order was noteworthy not only because it was relatively recent but also because of its use of the word “scandal.”
“Now, for the first time, we’ve seen documents from the Vatican that emphasize the word that we’ve seen so often here in Boston: ‘scandal,’” MacLeish said.
“This document says he is to be relocated to another place where presumably they wouldn’t know about him, unless the bishop or the cardinal of the appropriate diocese determines it will cause no scandal,” he said. “What about the children?”
MacLeish has said the files, which a judge ordered the archdiocese to turn over, help prove a central claim in his lawsuits against the archdiocese — that the church reassigned priests accused of sexual abuse without warning parishioners.
At the time the memo was written, the archdiocese said it was aware of at least six young men whom Burns allegedly molested while he worked in Boston from 1982 to 1991.
Burns came to Boston from the diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, where his problem had been noticed.
Burns pleaded guilty in 1996 to criminal charges that he had sexually assaulted two boys in New Hampshire. He was sentenced to two consecutive four- to eight-year terms in jail.
Meanwhile, a central figure of the scandal, the Rev. Paul Shanley, posted $300,000 cash bail Wednesday. Shanley, 71, has been charged in Boston with 10 counts of child rape and six counts of indecent assault and battery for allegedly abusing boys at a church in Newton from 1979 to 1989.
A former Boston Archdiocese leader, the Rev. Thomas Daily, now the bishop of Brooklyn, N.Y., said in a sworn deposition that the church knew Shanley had advocated sex between men and boys when it promoted him to lead a parish in 1983.
(Yes, I linked to the right article: the text I have quoted here is no longer on the MSNBC website at that URL. The webpage seems to have been completely redone, to keep up with the latest news.)
MSNBC was careful to note that it is "Catholics" making these wild charges against the pope: NYP was not so careful. Their article, dated Dec. 11, entitled Pope Gave His Blessing, begins thus:
Boston's Bernard Cardinal Law was just following orders from his boss - Pope John Paul II - when he sent suspected pedophile priests back to work in parishes with kids, a damning church document reveals....
That's why the New York Post needs to retract its foolish charges and to apologize for them. Now.
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