Monday, April 12, 2010

A purely legal question III

Much as I would like to, I cannot deny that I am a Catholic. And there is little or nothing in the Catholic theology that I take issue with. I have no qualm with the transsubstantiation, the devotion to Mary, or other theological tenets that are uniquely Catholic. Political tenets like Papal Infallibility are another matter. But after all, to break Canon Law is not a sin, and to find fault with the Catholic hierarchy is neither blasphemous nor heretical.

So on theological grounds, there is little or nothing I have ever said or written that makes me a bad Catholic. To point out that a pontiff is an imperfect human being is the only conclusion that a sane, rational human being can draw.

That will not stop the fanatics from declaring that anyone who criticizes a pope, cardinal, bishop, or priest is "evil" and that the "devil" is behind it. I suggest, instead, that the devil is behind the fanatics who defend or enable any child molester. As I have said: I am the father of two beautiful boys, with a third on the way. An organization that systematically enables child molestation is a corrupt organization. And any organization that does business in a land must follow the laws of that land. So we return, again, to the purely legal question: are these corporations, these archdioceses, going to follow or not going to follow the law?

The evidence is mounting that Cardinal Ratzinger absolutely, positively knew about these molesters. If there is a meeting about the reassignment of a molester-priest, and you are the chair of the meeting, I suggest that you knew about it. If you receive a letter about a priest who has plead no contest to molestations charges, and you respond to that letter, I suggest that you knew about it. To say otherwise defies all logic and intelligence. And the evidence will show that John Paul II knew some things, as well.

I knew an alleged child molester once. At the time, I honestly didn't know. I was in my late teens – 16, 17, 18 – and so the person in question had no interest whatsoever in me. (Sad to say, it was because I was much too old for him.) Though on occasion he would make statements that I thought were sort of strange, he was a musician, and I was a musician, and we talked incessantly about music, little else. I attended numerous of his concerts. He was a great and positive musical influence on me. To this day, many of my musical ideas and ideals more closely resemble his than they do that of my actual teachers. Then one day, I received a phone call that this man committed suicide. And rumors began to spread that the reason for the suicide was the threat of a lawsuit by a set of angry parents.

Undeterred (and a little rebellious by nature), I continued to sing the praises of this musician. Why not? As far as I knew, there was no sex act involved – only a slight indiscretion with, so I believed, one boy. Later, more rumors surfaced. I began to put the pieces together that, apparently, the indiscretion was not unique. Apparently, most every job he ever had ended with a similarly embarrassing incident. Never a lawsuit. Never an allegation (that I know of) of an actual sex act. But always an indiscretion.

I do not believe that this man, this very great musician, ever performed a sex act with a boy, or with anyone. He was not "that" dangerous. Still, as a parent, I implore other parents to be very aware of this psychological disease. And it is no longer a secret that said disease is rampant in the Catholic Church. If Ratzinger wants to "consider the good of the Universal Church" (to quote his aforementioned 1985 letter), he will be totally honest, with himself and with the world.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A purely legal question II

More evidence of then-Cardinal Ratzinger's extraordinary negligence in dealing with pedophile priests has surfaced, this time in the San Francisco Bay area.

In 1978, Fr. Stephen Kiesle, a teacher and priest at Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Union City, pleased no contest for tying up and molesting two boys. Three years later, in 1981, Kiesle made a formal request to the Vatican to be allowed to leave the priesthood. Four years later, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote to His Eminence John Cummins, Bishop of Oakland, requesting more time to consider the matter. Kiesle is not defrocked ... is reassigned to other parishes ... molests more boys ... Church officials do nothing ... Same old, same old.

Here is a photo of Ratzinger's letter:

And here is the full text of the letter, as translated for The Associated Press by Thomas Habinek, chairman of the University of Southern California Classics Department.

Most Excellent Bishop

Having received your letter of September 13 of this year, regarding the matter of the removal from all priestly burdens pertaining to Rev. Stephen Miller Kiesle in your diocese, it is my duty to share with you the following:

This court, although it regards the arguments presented in favor of removal in this case to be of grave significance, nevertheless deems it necessary to consider the good of the Universal Church together with that of the petitioner, and it is also unable to make light of the detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke with the community of Christ's faithful, particularly regarding the young age of the petitioner.

It is necessary for this Congregation to submit incidents of this sort to very careful consideration, which necessitates a longer period of time.

In the meantime your Excellency must not fail to provide the petitioner with as much paternal care as possible and in addition to explain to same the rationale of this court, which is accustomed to proceed keeping the common good especially before its eyes.

Let me take this occasion to convey sentiments of the highest regard always to you.

Your most Reverend Excellency

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

I repeat, then, the question I posed in my previous post on this topic: why is a corporation (in this case the Church) allowed to do business in a country (in this case America) whose laws it refuses to follow?

A lawyer friend of mine, a devout Catholic, responded to the question:

I've been thinking about your post [...], and bottom-line for me is that I am a hardcore advocate for non-profit compliance with the law, chiefly because (a) non-profits enjoy a number of benefits under law (let's just call them perks) and (b) non-profits have extraordinarily important and sensitive work on their hands. That compliance should extend to people who act on behalf of the non-profit, whether with explicit, implicit or cloaked authority (i.e., any form of agency) and non-profits should be punished accordingly for failing to reign violations of law in.

Cue in the Roman Catholic Church (acting, in the United States, in the form of several non-profits). Like tons of other non-profits across the country, it is riddled with scandal. Unlike many non-profits, the Roman Catholic Church has not been the object of its fair share of prosecutions (whether in the form of organizational investigations resulting in regulatory action or actual criminal prosecutions of people acting with agency on behalf of the organization) chiefly because many state regulators just haven't sharpened the teeth – for whatever reason. Compounded with the lack of an extradition treaty with the Vatican (not like that will happen; the U.S. doesn't even have one with China), the fact that religion is involved, constitutional issues, and that people have very STRONG interests vested for/against the Roman Catholic Church, prosecuting the Roman Catholic Church seems like a big mess – particularly since religion is involved. Allegedly, the Massachusetts' Attorney General's inquiries into the allegations of abuse concerning Diocese of Fall Rivers and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston's had "teeth", but as far as I'm concerned, the Massachusetts' AG's actions did nothing.

Here's the thing for me. I'm a Catholic and expect much from the religion with which I affiliate [...]. I'm also a lawyer with very strong feelings about the separation of church and state. However, I don't think that governmental "intermeddling" (i.e., investigations, for example) into alleged harms is an interference into the realm of church, chiefly, because the church has subjected itself to some form of state regulation – i.e., taking on a corporate form with the perks. Therefore, let the investigations and prosecutions come down. If the Roman Catholic Church (remember, individual corporate entities) don't cooperate, then take them down one by one with state action. Other national non-profits – The Boys' & Girls' Club, The American Red Cross, The United Healthcare Group – all had atrocious scandals associated with them. They were non-profits that were dealt with by the appropriate state actor accordingly. The Roman Catholic Church should be treated the same way. Let arrests for non-compliance with state and federal laws start today!

I agree with this position. If a Roman Catholic archdiocese in any given state protects a pedophile, either (a) said archdiocese faces the court of that state; or, (b) said archdiocese is stripped of its status as a non-profit corporation and is disallowed to do business in said state.

Now, some of the lawyers among you will say that the whole archdiocese, i.e., the whole corporation, should not be prosecuted; only individuals therein should be prosecuted, unless the whole corporation is shown to be in the business of molestation. My friends, the data suggests that pedophilia has been wide-spread enough, in terms of (a) number of priests; (b) number of church officials covering up the crimes; and (c) number of decades that this has been occurring, that, indeed, the Roman Catholic Church is in the pedophilia business.

As the father of two beautiful young boys, and another on the way, I urge you: do not let your children be in the presence of a Catholic priest, unsupervised, for any length of time and under any circumstances. This is not about theology anymore; whether or not Holy Communion is really a transsubstantiation or just symbolic does not seem very important anymore. This is about the lives of innocent children. May every criminal be prosecuted.

Translation of Ratzinger Letter: Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Photo of Ratzinger Letter: Kim Johnson / Associated Press.