Vatican Papers Spark Debate - Clergy Abuse Protocol Noted

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
August 28, 2005

Worcester — The 1962 Vatican document called Crimen Sollicitationis that first surfaced in Worcester two years ago has made its way around the world, causing controversy and sparking debate on whether the Roman Catholic hierarchy intended this document as a plan to hush up sexual abuse of children.

The name is taken from the first words of the original Latin version, which mean "crime of solicitation."

It outlines procedures to be followed when a priest is accused of sexual abuse. Houston lawyer Daniel J. Shea said the document is relevant because it shows that the church hierarchy has conspired to keep quiet child abuse.Reading through the Crimen protocol for handling abuse cases, Mr. Shea said, it is evident that the intent is to absolve the offending priest and send him on what the document calls a "pious pilgrimage" but what he called a "vacation," and to shut up the complainant.

He and other civil lawyers in this country are also introducing the document into lawsuits in an attempt to show that an international conspiracy is involved in covering up abuse by priests.

He went to the gates of the Vatican two weeks ago to press his argument that Pope Benedict XVI has actively conspired to keep cases of clergy sexual abuse under wraps. He bases his claim on the Crimen document and a letter that the pope wrote in 2001, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, instructing church officials on how to handle these cases. Crimen was footnoted in the 2001 document.

Crimen Sollicitationis has also shown up in Louisville, Ky., where the Vatican has been named in a lawsuit filed by men alleging clergy sexual abuse.

Mr. Shea, who also practices in Massachusetts, settled several sexual abuse cases in Worcester Superior Court, but has named the pope in a lawsuit he is handling for three men in the Houston area who said they were sexually abused by a priest there who later fled back to his native Latin America.

Crimen was introduced into a court suit in Springfield brought by Jane Martin, who said she was sexually abused as a child by the Rev. Robert E. Kelley, a priest of the Worcester Diocese. The judge did not allow introduction of the document because it had not been authenticated and was not seen as being relevant.

Mr. Shea's campaign has attracted public notice. Articles about his quest have appeared in newspapers in Britain, Ireland, Italy and the United States.

The Rev. Thomas Doyle, the canon lawyer who first called attention to the burgeoning sexual abuse scandal in the church in the mid-1980s, said he understands that an even earlier document dealt with how to handle clergy sexual abuse issues, but he has been unable to find the entire document. Dated June 8, 1922, it is written in Latin and called "De modo procedendi in causis sollicitationis."

Rev. Doyle does not agree with Mr. Shea that the 2001 memo implicates the pope in obstruction of justice. The memo was intended to be an internal church document and no one at the Vatican at the time was thinking in terms of obstructing justice. He does not believe that Crimen Sollicitationis was an intentional act by the church hierarchy to cover up abuse but said it shows a 1960s "mindset" of the hierarchy, which intended these things to be kept confidential.

The document, which was marked "confidential," was drawn up by Cardinal Alfred Ottaviani and approved by Pope John XXIII. Rev. Doyle said the pope may not have read the document presented to him for approval by the cardinal, but he would have known of its existence. According to the preamble to Crimen, it was to be "diligently stored in the secret archives of the Curia as strictly confidential."

Rev. Doyle, as a canon lawyer, worked at the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C., during the 1980s and a lot of church documents involving allegations of clerical sexual abuse crossed his desk. This is where he got his first inklings of the scope of the problem, which until recently remained largely hidden. He has also served as an expert witness in civil lawsuits involving allegations of sexual abuse by priests and has seen even more documents.

He said that although Crimen does not appear to be operational in all Catholic dioceses, he has seen documents that show it was used in some of them.

He believes the American bishops, none of whom would have been involved in the writing of Crimen Sollicitationis, from the mid-20th century onward turned their energies to sending offending priests to treatment places. The first such retreat was operated by the Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico, he said. In the late 1940s and 1950s, the founder of that order was warning bishops that none of the priests sent to "the Paracletes should be in active ministry," he said. The bishops did not heed that warning, he said.

The House of Affirmation in Whitinsville, which was opened in the 1970s, received a number of offending priests, but experts in the treatment field had told Rev. Doyle that they did not believe the House of Affirmation was equipped professionally to treat sexually abusive priests. "But bishops continued to send priests to the House of Affirmation," he said. The House of Affirmation closed in the late 1980s amid a financial scandal.

Rev. Doyle said Catholics in general understand that the hierarchy needs to take a good look at how they operate if there is to be an end to clerical sexual abuse. He said he was recently involved in a court case in which a bishop, whom he declined to name, did not tell the truth about destruction by his diocese of subpoenaed documents, although the bishop had knowledge that his predecessor had the documents destroyed. "He violated a court order and he violated an oath," Rev. Doyle said.

Bishops react as organizations react, he said. "They come to see their needs as the needs of the institution," he said. Rev. Doyle added that the church will not come to grips with the sexual abuse problem unless it takes a look at its own views on sexuality. Rev. Doyle said he has seen files on many abusive priests and was struck by how sexually immature they were. "In seminary, you did not talk about sex. It was a sin," he said.

Rev. Doyle added that the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which was approved by the American bishops, is not the panacea that many hope it is. "I have a lot of issues with the charter," he said. For one thing, he said, he does not believe the church can "self-audit" compliance with the charter. The language of the charter is so broad that abuse can be construed in many different ways.

Other people interviewed recently had a variety of views on the documents and what needs to be done to deal with the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

Gerald Renner of Connecticut, a retired religion writer for the Hartford Courant who with Jason Berry wrote "Vows of Silence," has investigated the allegations that Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, had sexually molested boys and that the Vatican hushed it up.

Mr. Renner said he believes the "resurrection" of Crimen after more than 40 years is "not a blueprint for a cover-up regardless of what Mr. Shea or others say."

He said it is an internal church document "that applies to ecclesiastical law, not to the broader civil law in the U.S. or anywhere else. It is a straw which civil lawyers have grasped to open the Vatican to liability for the cover-up."

Timothy P. Staney, a former Worcester resident who now lives in the Tampa, Fla., area, has made the Crimen available to anyone who want to download it from the Internet. He got a copy of the document, which is more than 30 pages long, and put it on his Web site. It got 800 hits the first week and the document then began to appear on other sites. A Google search shows the file, criminales.pdf, showing up in more than 90 sites. References to Crimen show up in more than 650 places on the Web and articles about it appear in a number of different languages, showing a worldwide reach.

Crimen deals with how the hierarchy should act if a priest is turned in for sexual abuse. The answer is, "It never happened," Mr. Staney said.

Mr. Staney, who settled a lawsuit alleging he was sexually abused by the Rev. Jean-Paul Gagnon and Raymond Tremblay, a former religious education teacher, said he believes it is unimportant whether Catholics view the document as irrelevant or an urgent directive of protocol. "It is indisputable that this document was released to the highest ranks of the church under the secret of the Holy Office with draconian security instructions and was never meant to fall into the hands of lay people, moreover the media," he said.

Mr. Staney sees Crimen as a "smoking gun" of a cover-up and noted the language of the document is "concisely sexual."

While some argue the document refers only to sexual abuse involving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Mr. Staney questions why it makes reference to sexual acts involving "brute animals."

"They were obviously concerned about something more than sacramental protocol," he said.

Daniel E. Dick, victim support coordinator for Worcester Voice of the Faithful, said he believes Crimen was used by the bishops "and those above them in rank" to avoid having to face their role in the "whole, awful mess of sexual abuse by any and all church personnel."

"The release of Crimen Sollicitationis in 1962 was originally limited to cover only improper advances a confessor might make to a young male in the confessional. Supposedly, according to its canon lawyer defenders, the intent of Crimen Sollicitationis was later expanded to convey the church's recognition that the abuse of another person by a member of the clerical caste was also a crime. This covers (religious) such as deacons, brothers and sisters in religious orders, seminarians, priests, bishops and archbishops, cardinals, and popes who have been guilty of sexually soliciting and abusing another person," Mr. Dick said.

"The document does not cover those who aid and abet in the crime of obstructing justice," he said. A person who knowingly puts a child molester in a position to abuse more children "is also aiding and abetting a crime," Mr. Dick said.

"The most notorious example of such an exclusion is the horrific record of Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston who did knowingly and habitually shield and transfer many, many pedophile clergy and religious from one post to another where they could continue their criminal ways. His case was considerably compounded by the actions of both Pope John Paul II and then Cardinal Ratzinger who had Law whisked away to Rome where they ensconced him in a cushy pastorate of a wealthy church there. Then, after being elected pope, Rev. Ratzinger had the further gall to invite Law to say the Mass of mourning for the late John Paul II," Mr. Dick said.

Pauline Salvucci of Maine, a former religious sister who now advocates for church reform and accountability through Voices of Outrage, said the document may be controversial but she would rather see people focus their energies on bringing real reform to the Catholic church and to begin to prosecute those of the church hierarchy who have shielded priests.

"The way to change the church won't be through this document from Rome, but rather through a grass-roots political movement in truth and justice," she said. She sees the goals as changing the statutes of limitations to hold priests and bishops accountable for sexual abuse, holding Congressional hearings into diocesan cover-ups that have been documented around the country, removing the non-profit status of churches and dioceses that refuse to cooperate with investigations and having a federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) investigation into the cover-ups.

George "Skip" Shea of Uxbridge, who settled a suit alleging abuse by Rev. Thomas H. Teczar, said it is "hard to believe" there was not an active conspiracy with orders from Rome. He referred to a recent suit against the Fort Worth, Texas, and Worcester dioceses by two men who said they were abused by Rev. Teczar, who migrated to Texas from Worcester. "It was evident in the letters between Worcester and Fort Worth, where (the late) Bishop (Joseph Patrick) Delaney assumed all legal and financial responsibility for Father Teczar if he was to be sent there. He knew the risks. He jeopardized the safety of those children," he said. "Clearly, the results of the recent lawsuits have proven that. Yet publicly he denied everything."

George Shea said that Cardinal Law knowingly moved abusive priests "while publicly denying it."

Mr. Shea, who is not related to the Houston lawyer, said, "The fact that two leaders of the church, 2,000 miles apart, exhibiting the same behavior and responses to the crisis, leads one to believe they are taking the same orders."

The Rev. Bruce Teague, a College of the Holy Cross graduate who is a priest of the Springfield Diocese, said bishops attempted to avoid scandal, particularly at the local level, and did not need Crimen to do it. "Most American bishops, unless they were canon lawyers, would not understand Crimen. It would have had to be interpreted to them by their chief canon lawyers," he said.

Rev. Teague said bishops did not view sexual abuse of minors as a criminal issue but thought it was best handled by sending the priest to treatment. "Their behaviors were similar to Nixon in Watergate and Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky case. Their efforts and their diagnosis proved to be disastrous and destructive to victims and the church," he said.

Canon law dealt with the issue of abusive priests, but American bishops did not even follow church law, Rev. Teague said. He said bishops still fail to hold themselves accountable for the harm they caused. "Unlike, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Dallas norms fail to hold bishops accountable themselves," he said.


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