02 April, 2010

The judge speaks

Pope Benedict has recently been associated with the "quashing" a canonical trial against a priest in the Milwaukee archdiocese who engaged in some deeply unholy behavior. For example, from this article in USA Today:

[A] case has come to light in which Ratzinger's deputy at the Congregation told Wisconsin bishops to quash a church trial for a priest alleged to have abused up to 200 deaf boys.
I find "quash" to be a curious choice of words.
quash: 1. To defeat forcibly. 2. (relating to law) To void or suppress (a subpoena, decision, etc.).
I reckon that definition (2) is meant, but I hear definition (1). Maybe it's just me, but it still seems like a curious choice of words.

The media outlet that led on this has already been put somewhat on the defensive from some people who actually know what they're talking about. The journalists writing on this clearly don't understand the canonical process, don't know many of the facts, and haven't read the documents thoroughly. I'll be honest: I didn't, either, but the number of even half-informed Catholics who have come out in recent days correcting most any aspect of the article is remarkable. You'd think the journalists involved would have done some research, but most of the reporting would make you think it inconceivable that the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith does not dictate the choice of whether Our Lady of the Suburbs should buy Easter lilies from the florist or have them plucked from a parishioner's garden.

One of the best and most well-informed articles that I've found so far has been, to my surprise, Jimmy Akin's at the National Catholic Register's weblog. (I don't much care for his followup, though, which is entirely too obsessed with the failings of Archbishop Weakland. Nor is Andrew Sullivan's reply to Akin's post particularly impressive. He, too, seems to think that every decision at the diocesan or archdiocesan level is made either by the head of CDF or by the archbishop, depending on which position Ratzinger held at the time.)

It turns out that the media's conduct has been even more derelict than failing to read and interview canon lawyers about the documents they posted online. One of the individuals quoted repeatedly in the original New York Times article has written a reply. Who? The very judge whose proceedings were supposedly "quashed".
As I have found that the reporting on this issue has been inaccurate and poor in terms of the facts, I am also writing from a sense of duty to the truth.

The fact that I presided over this trial and have never once been contacted by any news organization for comment speaks for itself.

Pope Benedict XVI has done more than any other pope or bishop in history to rid the Catholic Church of the scourge of child sexual abuse and provide for those who have been injured
You'd think that a competent reporter might have done enough research to turn up this fact reported by the judge:
[T]he competency to hear cases of sexual abuse of minors shifted from the Roman Rota to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith headed by Cardinal Ratzinger in 2001. Until that time, most appeal cases went to the Rota and it was our experience that cases could languish for years in this court. When the competency was changed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in my observation as well as many of my canonical colleagues, sexual abuse cases were handled expeditiously, fairly, and with due regard to the rights of all the parties involved. I have no doubt that this was the work of then Cardinal Ratzinger.
The entire article bears reading.

I have read that Pope John Paul II was not much concerned about charges of sexual misbehavior leveled at priests because, during his tenure as a bishop ion Poland, the Communist Party leveled such charges at priests they didn't like, regardless of the facts. Supposedly, this is why one of the founders of the Legion of Christ was never disciplined during John Paul's tenure: John Paul couldn't take the accusations seriously. Benedict, by all accounts that I've read, has quite a different view, which is why he disciplined Marcial Maciel with relative speed. (I believe the National Catholic Register was stunned at the time. I used to subscribe.)

Happy Easter, Pope Benedict. Ad multos annos.

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