I wonder what the Latin equivalent for chutzpah is.
A former Vatican spokesman has written, against the backdrop of the house arrest of a former nuncio being investigated for abuse of minors, that the Church is the only international body acting effectively against pedophilia.
In an op-ed published in the Italian daily La Repubblica Sept. 25, Joaquin Navarro-Valls commented on the house arrest in Vatican City of Jozef Wesolowski, the former apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic who was laicized earlier this year. He faces criminal charges under Vatican City’s civil laws. The house arrest of Wesolowski “is a very important penal action,” stressed Navarro-Valls, who was head of the Holy See press office from 1984-2006. Navarro-Valls emphasized that “the Holy See was legally fit and morally ready” to handle such an “extreme and shameful crime” thanks to a “legal rigor the Church has been maintaining against pedophilia for 20 years, ever since abuses first came to light.”
Say what, now? Moral readiness? Legal rigor?
By perfectly objective standards, the Catholic Church has created and perpetrated a decades-long, possibly centuries-long sex scandal involving the sustained assault on legions and legions of young children. Not only were tens of thousands of teens and preteens (or were there more?) sexually violated by the self-styled holy men whose so-called morality placed them above the flock’s suspicion; but a succession of archbishops, monsignors, and other spiritual “leaders” subsequently conspired to move the sexual deviants in their midst from parish to parish, allowing known rapists to make new underage victims.
Then, when the crimes came to light, the Catholic hierarchy went out of its way to both shield the perps from secular prosecution and to protect Church assets from civil lawsuits filed by the survivors.
And that’s still not all. Church spokesmen also habitually tried to parry the criticism by pointing the finger elsewhere — maintaining, for instance, that the press sensationalized and exaggerated the Catholic child-abuse epidemic (after a shocking exposé in the Boston Globe, Cardinal Bernard Law responded with “By all means we call down God’s power on the media, particularly the Globe“).
The worst of the Vatican-employed spinmeisters even blamed the victims: in an article for The Catholic Herald, Milwaukee archbishop Rembert Weakland wrote:
“Sometimes not all adolescent victims are so ‘innocent.’ Some can be sexually very active and aggressive and often quite streetwise.”
The Wesolowski case (he’s the former papal nuncio who, in a Catholic first, was recently defrocked and arrested by Vatican authorities on suspicion of serial child rape) does nothing to change the Church’s shameful record. By rights, the Catholic Church is the last freakin’ institution on Earth that may crow about one tiny first step in pursuing child-fucking clergy members, what with so much pain and suffering still unacknowledged, unaddressed, and uncompensated by the cadres of padres.
The tone-deafness of the Church is staggering. For instance, Navarro-Valls writes that
“Pope Francis’ decision [to prosecute Wesolowski] must be rightly appreciated, but it is noteworthy that it is the logical and coherent consequence” of a modus operandi that stretches back to the time of his two immediate predecessors.
You almost have to admire the audacity.
Navarro-Valls then emphasized that “the Church is the only communitarian and institutional body” that is “effectively acting” in order to eradicate pedophilia “both in canonical and penal law terms” as well as “in cultural terms.”
After reading the piece, still feeling queasy, I got in touch with the man who literally wrote the book on Catholic child abuse: Michael D’Antonio, who penned 2013’s excellent Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal. Here’s what he had to say:
“The Vatican has long claimed to be on the leading edge of the fight against pedophilia but it has, historically, confused its religious sanctions with actual legal efforts against this terrible crime. Spiritually speaking, the church considers the defrocking of a priest very serious. The rest of the world does not consider this action real punishment for the sexual abuse of children. In the rest of the world, sexual abuse is taken more seriously, not less, and is prosecuted as a violent crime punishable by longterm incarceration.
If the Vatican does indeed try Wesolowski in a criminal proceeding and he is found guilty, we will have to see what kind of punishment is imposed. I would have far more confidence in legal proceedings almost anywhere in the world. But let’s give them a chance. They may prove to actually be committed to justice.”
I also asked D’Antonio how the rape survivors he’s talked with see Navarro-Valls’ jaw-dropping statements.
“The survivors I know are very skeptical of the Vatican process and can’t imagine how it will yield real justice. The appropriate course would be extradition to the place where a crime took place and adjudication in that locale. The Vatican doesn’t seem to recognize the seriousness of these offenses. It is applying church administrative processes to a criminal issue and claiming that constitutes child protection. Once again they suffer from their isolation. Their “state” is populated almost entirely by male clerics. No women, no children, no semblance of a true nation.
Also, the Vatican possesses this unique status as a state organized to serve a religion and thus, presents the world with a strange kind of reality. In the case of sexual crimes committed by clergy, this reality is a bureaucracy filled with desperation where, I’m afraid, the denial is so deep that people may truly believe the distorted arguments they make in defense of the indefensible.”
May we believe a Catholic flack who claims that the Church has the “moral readiness” and “legal rigor” to prosecute the crimes that it has willfully turned a blind eye to a million times? Or would that be akin to believing that the Sinaloa Cartel is uniquely qualified to dispense justice against the drug traffickers, torturers, and assassins it has produced for decades?
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