William D. Lindsey
Kieran Tapsell on Bishop Geoffrey Robinson’s Testimony Before Australian Abuse Commission: Vatican’s Belief That Church Law Trumps Civil Law Is Big Obstacle for Commission
Highly recommended: Kieran Tapsell’s conversation with Noel Debien of ABC Australia yesterday evening. Kieran Tapsell is an attorney and author of the book Potiphar’s Wife: The Vatican’s Secret and Child Sexual Abuse (Adelaide: ATF Press, 2014). In introducing Tapsell, Debien notes that the testimony last week of Bishop Geoffrey Robinson before the Australian Royal Commission about Sexual Abuse has gotten surprisingly little media coverage. I suspect this may be the case because, as I noted in my posting last Wednesday about Robinson’s testimony, he was unsparing in his criticism of the silence of the powerful Pope John Paul II about the abuse crisis in the Catholic church, and he also stated bluntly that the popular Pope Francis has not provided real leadership for the church as it addresses this crisis.
In his discussion with Debien, Tapsell reads between the lines of Bishop Robinson’s testimony, and points out that the Australian bishops — along with other bishops in other countries — could not address the abuse crisis effectively, when it began to come to their attention, because the Vatican had tied one hand behind their backs. Because the crisis deals with clerics, the Vatican insisted that all cases of clerical sexual abuse be referred specifically to the Vatican itself, and be treated as matters to be resolved by canon law — though canon law is frequently in conflict with civil law regarding sexual abuse of minors.
This strategy was crafted specifically by John Paul II and his right-hand man in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, who chose to respond to the Irish Murphy Commission report by maintaining that bishops, and not the Vatican, were creating the problem of ineffective response to the abuse crisis, since bishops were not following canon law. Though Irish civil law requires that priests abusing minors be referred to Irish criminal officials and not to the Vatican, to be dealt with per canon law . . . . And though the Vatican has simultaneously sought to maintain that priests abusing minors are independent agents who are in no way under the control of the Vatican or even of their diocesan bishops . . . .
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