Friday, March 26, 2010
In the case of Lawrence Murphy in Milwalkee, Murphy was investigated by the police, who declined to propsecute. Did Archbishop Rembert Weakland have additional information of Murphy's guilt which he concealed from the civil authorities, which if he had revealed would have brought about his conviction? If so prosecute Weakland, let him answer for it before the civil authorities. Catholics have to obey, just civil laws, the Church is not above the law.
Canon Law is about the internal governance of the Church. It has the same presumption of innocence as any other court and requires the same burden of proof. It relies on the investigations of the local bishop, in the case of the Milwalkee allegations, presumably it would have followed the same course of evidence gathering as the civil authorities. The civil authorities didn't find enough evidence so why should Rome?
Normally a canonical trial will follow a civil trial, for the most part civil offences are the same as ecclessiastical ones, the Church has additional offences such as violation of the sacraments, offences against the unity of the Church, such as heresy or disobedience but for any prosecution proof is required. The outcome of a successful prosecution can result in laicisation, restrictions on the individual's ministry, or censure. It is the canonical process which is secret. The secrecy is there to protect the reputation of the accused and the accuser and to stop any undue influence on witnesses.
The ecclesiastical process is not a substitute for the civil process, it is addition.
I find it almost incredible that the parents of a child who had been raped or otherwise abused by a priest would not go to the civil auithorities and seek justice for their child. I find it difficult to believe an adult who has discovered the courage to report an act of abuse in their childhood should choose to report the matter to a bishop rather than the police, except perhaps if there is little evidence, but when there is scant evidence how can the Church proceed against someone justly?
added at midday: Yes, those of you who have commented so far and disagree with this last paragraph, you are right. Reporting the abuse to civil authorities can often be an abusive experience in itself, and yes, for many victims reporting the matter to the Church is often more about wanting an acknowledgement of hurt, an appology or even an admission that they have raised the matter and are taken seriously and are heard at last.
And yes, the Church can act without a judicial process, it can't laicise him but it can restrict his faculties in cases where there is reasonable, but unprovable, guilt or suspicion og guilt. In the Murphy case the CDF required of him an admission or acceptance of what he had done.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake