Sex: the Three Letter Word Destroying the Vatican

By Richard Cottrell
End the Lie
May 31, 2012

As the ship of state veers close to a deadly reef in the teeth of a violent storm, the captain and all his crew are suddenly struck blind. This is an apt simile for the uproar surrounding the extent and gravity of the child abuse scandal eating at the very fabric of the Roman Catholic Church.

The first reaction of Pope Benedict and his advisors in the circumstances is to adopt a strict policy of eyes wide shut.

Editor's note: Here in the United States allegations of sexual abuse are swept under the rug so hastily that accused priests are actually able to hold supervisor positions with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Believe it if you will, the conference of Italian bishops has just issued new guidelines on what to do if abuse cases involving priests (or for that matter, higher ranks of the church) come to their attention.

Answer: nothing.

The new guidelines were released shortly before the eruption of the latest Vatican scandal revolving around highly secret and intimate correspondence apparently filched by his own butler from Benedict's state apartments.

The Vatican ministry which looks after discipline in the church, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had proposed that every diocesan Bishop should create a standing document that will set out a strict code of behavior in sexual abuse cases.

What is important here is that the Bishop's Conference (CEI) reports directly to Benedict. There seems to be little doubt that the pope himself, or more probably his closest and most intimate advisers, overrode other voices within the Vatican calling for sterner and stricter standards to curb abuse among the priestly ranks and then unfrock convicted offenders.

To devote a mere five pages to an issue which has placed the church in the front line of massive compensation claims around the globe, not to mention the dock at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, is in any event pure arrogance.

It is dumb criminal neglect.

The original proposal was mean enough, amounting to no more than office keeping. But at the very least, it proposed some benchmark upon which more severe standards might be constructed. It was not to be.

I quote from the circular that eventually emanated from the Bishop's Conference.

"Under Italian law, the bishop, given that he holds no public office nor is he a public servant, is not obliged to report illicit facts of the type covered by this document to the relevant state judicial authorities."

If the board of directors of any big oil company responsible for huge pollution catastrophes made the same claim to blanket immunity for their misdeeds, there would be uproar.

But if you happen by the grace of God to be the divinely appointed President and Managing Director of Vatican Incorporated, you can get away with anything, even sadistic and systematic violation of children and pre-teens supposedly in the care and affection of the church.

Yet that is only part of this wretched story.

The Roman church is foremost concerned to project itself, wherever the faith has roots, as an independent sovereign body which transcends international law.

This is tantamount to extending the boundaries of the Vatican which is an independent state to embrace not only church property but also the staff the clergy wherever they happen to be.

It is an ancient claim of privileges dating back to the Early Middle Ages, when the church fought and successfully won the right to deal on its own terms with claims and actions arising against the clergy solely in church courts.

The boundaries between clerical consistory privilege and secular justice remain extremely hazy. And that is what the church is counting on to protect itself from the devastating impact of massive compensation claims arising in a short list the US, Canada, Belgium, Australia, Ireland and the Netherlands.

The pathetic new encyclical is best seen as a blatant exercise in 'stem the tide.' In other words, whenever new abuse cases come before a Bishop's attention, his first task is to shut off the flow of oxygen so to speak, by preventing disclosure.

The struggle of secular versus church justice has now reached the International Court of Justice in the Hague. A landmark case was presented there last year under the heading of crimes against humanity, presented by the US organization called the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (rather neatly SNAP, for short).

This is an exceedingly clever device to get around the medieval boundaries of canonical justice. By delightful irony the church is now bound by a trap of its own making, namely to fall for the proposition of the pre-war Italian dictator Benito Mussolini that allowed the Vatican to become a recognized and fully independent state.

Any recognized state can be brought before the International Court, which of course deals in secular justice. SNAP's case specifically cites Benedict himself, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, and Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

The senior attorney, Pam Speers, set out the charges in no uncertain terms:

"The Vatican Officials charged in this case are responsible for the rape and other sexual violence and psychological torture of victims and the direct cover up of crimes. They should be put to trial like any other officials guilty of crimes against humanity."

Quite so.

It remains to be seen, however, if the serene judges of the International Court of Justice are prepared to rank the Holy Father alongside Bosnian war criminals.

Technically speaking, the matter of jurisdiction is clear. The pope is a recognized head of state and he disposes of total responsibility for all his employees, which all said and done, is what the priests are.

The church is presently doing its level best to lay a "what the butler saw" comic smokescreen around the affair of the purloined documents at the heart of the Vatileaks scandal.

It was all about relatively petty matters of lax fiscal discipline and petty corruption. The alleged perpetrator, 57-year-old Paolo Gabriele, was quickly whistled off to the Vatican's own private prison, where he was said to be "cooperating" with his inquisitors. So why all the fuss?

I suspect that Gabriele is being firmly tutored that under no circumstances must he utter that damming three letter word which is the running theme of this post, and the Roman Church's lurch to chaos. The church has every urgent motive to conceal correspondence connected with the case deposited at the Hague.

In the sanctity of the papal chambers, these might have seemed safe from prying eyes.

It seems unlikely, to say the least, that the misappropriated documents dealt with anything so mundane as money laundering at the Vatican bank, since that has been a running story for the last 30 years.

His treatment reminds me of another papal affair, that of Mohamed Ali Agca, who was charged with shooting Pope John Paul II in May 1981. This member of a well known Turkish criminal gang was instantly transferred to a prison on the opposite side of Italy, where for the next three months he was carefully tutored by a procession of visitors from the secret services as to what account he should give under oath in open court.

The bitter background to the affair is the strange fate of Emanuele Orlandi, the 15-year-old Vatican citizen, daughter of a policeman in the miniature state, who stepped across the Tiber on her way to a music lesson. She was kidnapped, raped and then ruthlessly murdered nearly 30 years ago, it is widely believed by a vice ring operating within the sacred precincts.

The recent exhuming of a legendary Roman bandit in the hope of finding the girl's bones concealed in his coffin has focused the spotlight once again on a story of high drama. Hundreds appeared waving pictures of Emanuele in St. Peter's Square during last week's regular Wednesday pontifical audience.

Her brother Pietro and the Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, appeared on the steps of City Hall to appeal for an investigation to finally settle the mystery.

Benedict once again demonstrated his deaf ear for public feelings by failing to mention the girl at this sensitive moment in his prayers, even as the tomb was at Rome's Basilica di Sant'Apollinare was prised open. There were jeers and shouts from the crowd, quite an unheard of reception.

For the Roman Church, I fancy these troubles are merely the beginning.

Richard Cottrell is a writer, journalist and former European MP (Conservative). His new book Gladio: NATO's Dagger At The Heart Of Europe is now available from Progressive Press. You may order it using the link below (or by clicking here Gladio, NATO's Dagger at the Heart of Europe: The Pentagon-Nazi-Mafia Terror Axis

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