Monday, March 04, 2013

Who Knew?

Mundabor asks some rather pertinent questions about the O'Brien affair, basically "who knew", in his post he poses and answers these questions:
Let us think this further: is it probable no one had noticed? No.
Is it possible no one ever sent notes and warnings to his superiors? Extremely unlikely.
Is it possible that such warnings were sent and given, and were ignored by the competent authorities without much thinking, or because of the wrong thinking? You can draw your own conclusions, but I think it probable almost to the point of certainty.
Is it probable no one had noticed?
I am told there were rumours in the Archdiocese about a relationship but rumours are not facts. Although rumours about all sorts of things abound amongst clergy, they often prove groundless. And although clergy do gossip about things happening within the Church it tends to be within small groups of trusted friends.
The great problem of the clergy, is that we tend to be naive about both scandal and sex. I really am convinced that the "cover-ups" of  the 1980's and much of the mishandling of sexual abuse that emerged at that time was a result naivety and confusion on the part of Bishops rather than wilful wickedness. We tend to be guarded about calumny, even calumnious thought. Especially today when we clergy live solitary lives, it is more than likely we are completely in the dark about what a priest is doing in the parish next door and even more so what our bishop is up to..

Is it possible no one ever sent notes and warnings to his superiors?
I think this is extremely likely, clergy tend to be masters at keeping silent about their suspicion. There is no mechanism for reporting suspicions to superiors, and certainly not if ones suspicion is about a bishop. Until the appointment of Archbishop Memini there was always the feeling that his predecessors were both unlikely to forward ones concerns to Rome and were more than likely to copy any letter to the Bishop concerned. The Church is an institution based on law, without concrete evidence very few would make a complaint based on rumour, opinion, or circumstantial evidence, and without concrete evidence no superior can legally act against an inferior.

Is it possible that such warnings were sent and given, and were ignored by the competent authorities without much thinking, or because of the wrong thinking. 
If complaints were made it is very likely complaints to previous Nuncii were ignored. Before Mennini the Nuncio was a remote figure, who was hardly soken to by ordinary clergy, and really wasn't trusted by most priests, I can't think of anyone who would nip around to Wimbledon for a cup of tea and a chat about a bishops shortcomings.
As far as complaints made to bishops or other superiors they are unlikely to act on mere suspicion or rumour. Sexual crimes especially always tend to happen in private, and there tends to be little evidence, and generally it is one persons word against another and without evidence their must be a presumption of innocence.


C&M said...

Seeing your title I picked the wrong subject!

I have been thinking that the Queen maybe knew in advance of Pope Benedict's retirement as she was planning to go to Rome but was not expecting to pay the customary visit.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Patricia McKeever of Catholic Truth Scotland claimed she had heard rumours dating back from O'Brien's time at Blairs college but chose not to engage in gossip herself. This despite her unrelenting campaign against O'Brien's management of the Edinburgh diocese. She remains a woman of the highest integrity.

It’s clear that O’Brien is the victim of a homosexual sting and his behaviour is typical of that documented in Michael Rose’s “Goodbye Good Men”. It is worth noting that Bishop Thomas Burns of Minevia equates this behaviour with the type of traditionalism advocated by Ms. McKeever. Those of us who experienced seminaries from the era equate Burns’ comments, his “ecclesiology” and Burns himself with the moral chaos of that period. How he cannot see the link is beyond us.

fidelisjoff said...

What was clear is that his teaching was at odds with the Church I.e. contraception prior to his elevation to Cardinal

IanW said...

That sounds like a realistic judgement from a good man, Fr, and I don't doubt it holds true in many cases. However, there is a spectrum in these matters that stretches from good-willed naivety through weakness to damaging self-interest, as there is in all walks of life. I've known this before in connection with a catholic charity which spends >=60% of every widow's mite it collects on 'overheads', a large proportion of which are in a jurisdiction that doesn't demand publication of accounts for religious charities, under the control of a religious organisation that has incurred significant costs as a result of its ... erm ... pastoral misdemeanours. Putting it on the record to the organisation's management never did anyone any good. Reactions ranged from embarrassment, to "don't rock the boat", to some very nasty behaviour indeed.

I was reminded of this when I saw posts from good men who questioned the motives of those who finally gained the courage to do something about Cardinal O'Brien. I don't think them wicked, but nor can I excuse them as naive - they were on that spectrum, jumping to the defence of a Church they love, but in doing so careless of the good name of those who appear to be victims here, and of others who might read their words and quail at the thought of telling their own stories of betrayal and abuse. I trust they will learn the appropriate lesson from this experience. The interests of the organisation are not necessarily those of God and of justice.

Amfortas said...

A 'homosexual sting'. This affair is sending some people's imaginations into over drive.

On the side of the angels said...

Commented at length on blog - but this isn't about who knew - it's about who deliberately kicked away the stool - and Fr Ray I'm sorry but a few of us have more than anecdotal/circumstantial evidence that certain individuals are up to no good - but we stay silent because their sins are between them and God - irrespective of the sword of damocles of an imminent threat of dire public scandal... we invariably keep our mouths shut and hope providence will sort it all out...

Fr Ray Blake said...

No Providence will not sort it out, you have a duty to make whatever is known to the competant authorities, otherwise you are co-operating in sin.

Crux Fidelis said...

As with all sin, pride is behind the Cardinal's fall. When he was first chosen as bishop, knowing his weaknesses and past failings, he should have said "No" but it would seem that the lure of high office was too much. Now we, the laity of Scotland, have to suffer the sneers and jeers which the clergy, cushioned as they are from the everyday world, do not.

Sadie Vacantist said...

I agree with OTSOTA. I would add that if the Edinburgh priests had the interests for the Church and at heart and wanted retribution, they could have ‘outed’ KOB back in 2003 when he was under investigation by Cardinal Ratzinger. The present decision to destroy him publicly (they may have received assistance as OTSOTA is implying from outside of their diocese) is motivated by gratuitous hatred.

Now I don’t doubt that KOB should never have been ordained a priest nor installed a bishop but why in God’s name destroy a man publicly who is close to retirement and in poor health regardless of what I may think of him? The gay mafia control my diocese and this public assassination of KOB will strengthen their stranglehold further still.

Peter said...

Father, I think that the problem is, in part, the nature of authority in the church: in business there are internal auditor and quality inspectors. Routine visitations might provide a chance to find problems and deal with them before they become very serious. Over time bishops might value advice and guidance to assist their work and help them deal with problems.
It seems that in this case the clergy concerned had no obvious channel for their concerns that was independent of the bishop.
I do not suggest that business always gets it right but it is worth noting that business failures seem to arise when there is no such effective supervision. How many commercial aircraft crash in the UK as a result of poor maintenance? Very few. There are strict procedures and checks. perhaps the church can learn something here.

mundabor said...

Father, many thanks for the mention. It is a great honour.
I have allowed myself some further considerations on my blog, expanding on your very interesting and useful observations.

Con grande stima.


John Kearney said...

We are all upset and angry with the Cardinal. Just what he meant by falling short of the standards required is still not clear. His mistake was to accept the appointment of Bishop and Cardinal when he knew his sins and weaknesses. I believe he tried to change when Cardinal, but that past caught up with him. It is a lesson for us all. God knows I failed the Church in one part of my life but thankfully through the Church found forgiveness but I am conscious that there are undertakings and responsibilities I could never safely undertake. I can use the Gifts God game me, for he never withdrew these, but I must always be prudent. The Cardinal, myself, and many others have much in common, but we must be aware of the scandal that could be just around the corner.

pooka said...

It's not surprising that our old Holy Smoke chum Mundabor should raise this...he obsesses about homosexuality, and in terms more vitriolic than O'Brien.

But that sad that so many join in when so few raised exactly the same question about the abuse of minors. Whenever there is wrongdoing, someone else knows or suspects. Yet how few whistle-blowers there were in the clergy and connected laity. It was left to the victims themselves.

To my mind, it is the real-downside of celibacy. Not the offensively suggested conditioning to pederesty, but the exclusive dependency on the church which it induces in the cadre of otherwise (mostly) good men.

On the side of the angels said...

No Father I'm sorry but I'm not talking about covering up misdemeanours but about exercising prudence which leaves justice for the scoundrel out of our hands... there is formal co-operation and proximate and remote material co-operation and not revealing everything we know to those who haven't earned nor require the whole truth is simply permissible remote material co-operation. If we know that the CDF are aware of something anything else we resort to [other than preventing others becoming victims of sin] becomes the sin of detraction. We entrust ourselves to the mercy, discretion and wisdom of Holy Mother Church in this regard. If I know of Bishops and Archbishops who have committed offences which might publicly ruin them if revealed? I keep schtum!!! We have a moral duty to the penitent offender as well as the innocent. And when it comes to the impenitent offender? What are the consequences and damage for those around them who do not share in the guilt but will sure as hell suffer from the consequences? Why is it right that the 'in-crowd' of the Magic circle can pull out all the stops to protect one of their own from trally outrageous public scandal by 'buying media silence' yet concurrently give the green light to the media to bring down an antipathetic-to-their-agenda cardinal? If I am fully aware that certain recent Catholic media commentators are the last people on the planet to comment on such issues because of their own skeletons which if discovered would wreak chaos? Our priority is to protect the innocent and if that includes stopping the wheat from being brought down because of the sins of the chaff? We run to the cross and let God sort it out

Fr Ray Blake said...

That is precisely what led to the child abuse scandal.

On the side of the angels said...

Now that simply isn't true...what led to the abuse scandals were Bishops wilfully standing in the way of the Vatican - they defiantly refused to report cases [despite crimens solicitationis orders to do so under pain of excommunication within 14 days]. I'm not talking about covering things up to 'protect good names' of institutions or secure diocesan bank balances I'm talking about real livelihoods and futures which could be destroyed because of the guilt of onr person intrinsically interconnected. Supposing you knew a mother of three with a dying husband was a shoplifter and if she was imprisoned her husband would die alone and their kids put into care? Supposing you knew a priest about to become Archbishop had fathered a married woman's child? What price are you willing to pay to accrue earthly justice? How many people have to be trmpled over? Quadragesima anno declares Charity goes beyond all demands for justice...and we're not talking about allowing sin to occur [as in child abusers continuing to abuse] we're talking about the guilty going unpunished for their transgressions...which I maintain we sometimes have to leave in God's hands....

Fr Ray Blake said...

I thought you were talking about allowing sin you occur, I thought you were talking about turning a blind eye to sin.

wretchedwithhope said...

pooka said "real-downside of celibacy"??? most sexual crimes are committed by people who think a celibate is a kind of vegetable. in the majority of cases the offenders were exposed to pornography as a child and continue to engage with it as adults (a shrink acquantaince blames pornography for the rampant culture of abuse); I haven't found any governmental stats on celibates and sex crimes?! the majority of perpetrators are male family members, friends or neighbours - domestic poachers whose pornographic existence has honed a predisposition for private crimes and getting away with it.

Fr said: "you have a duty to make whatever is known to the competant authorities, otherwise you are co-operating in sin."

from Romano Guardini's 'The Lord': Jesus said: “I have not come to call ‘the just,’ but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Naturally, this does not mean that he excludes the just, but that there is no such thing. People who do not regard themselves as sinners are non-existent for salvation; or rather, for them salvation consists first of all, of admitting their sinfulness. What does it mean to be a sinner? To sin not only against a certain person or thing, BUT TO FAIL SACRED TRUTH AND JUSTICE? To stand in opposition not only to the eternal moral code, but also to the living and holy God, imitating Satan’s age-old attack, the creature’s senseless but profoundly exciting attempt to dethrone, degrade and destroy his Creator. Earthly sin is likewise directed against the sacred, god-drawn life in man, and works itself out in the degradation and destruction of natural life. Sin does not remain in the solitary cell of the individual conscience, but swiftly spreads to become a community of error and fate. Stronger or weaker, overt or clandestine, conscious or unconscious, hesitant or determined, its ultimate sense is destruction."

We certainly can see the destruction.

wretchedwithhope said...

Re: kids steeped in porn:

Sadie Vacantist said...

The ignorance of the child abuse scandal as revealed by OTSOTA and Fr. Blake is worrying.

The only person I have read with a credible understanding is the Jewess Judith Reisman. As a Jewess she doesn't understand everything but she has a better understanding than either of you.

Things are going to get really bad. Homosexuals are looking to destroy us and will probably succeed in part.

Dignitatis Humanae anyone?

Genty said...

I don't understand OTSOTA'S reasoning and I think the example of a shoplifter is a misleading simplification. Let's ramp it up to a carer upon whom the family relies financially and who cleans out a vulnerable client's bank account.
There's an old saying that hard cases make bad law. Whenever corruption or crime is exposed there will always be collateral damage. That is the fault of the perpetrator. Should that person be left untramelled to continue malfeasance and accrue more victims? The answer has to be "No".
I agree that the chain of reporting in the Church has, until the present incumbent Nuncio, militated against the complainant. Let us hope he remains in place when the new pope takes office.
It is not so much the structure that is wrong, but the people who hold office who see a conflict between their personal ambition and the right thing to do. The argument for an independent channel for complaints sounds persuasive but even governments who support whistle-blowing cannot overcome contractual gagging clauses.
It's not surprising that hierarchies want to protect themselves by paying hush money. What they have failed to learn is that the truth will eventually come out. Instead of paying people to keep quiet, the answer is to encourage whistle- blowing, deal with the miscreant and make financial provision/reparation for those who need such support.
Having said that, it is clear that the Church has to undergo deep cleansing and I, for one, am aghast that certain cardinals will be permitted to have a say in who the new pontiff is.
I apologise for the length of this post. But I would like to deal briefly with the question of celibacy and sexual abuse. In the large number of child sex abuse court cases I have attended, 90% of the perpetrators have been married men with families.

Thomas said...

Anyone who has read Michael Tait's 'One of Them? Selection for the Catholic Priesthood in Britain Today', in which he recounts his experiences of Drygrange, would not be in the least surprised by the O'Brien 'revelations'.
It is the abuse of power and world-class hypocrisy that is wrong and so very common in the Church today.

Greg Collins said...

Men, in my experience, only have three problems with life. Their attitudes to sex, their attitudes to power and their attitudes to wealth.

Holy Mother Church suggests the solution to these problems is simple, chastity appropriate to one's state of life, obedience to a higher authority, and poverty.

We are all sinners, we are all therefore guilty of hypocrisy. But we are not all Cardinals. For me O'Brien's fault is in his hypocrisy and lack of integrity, not in his sexuality. He clearly has issues with both sex and power.

"The Filth" is not that we ordain gay men. "The Filth" is not that we ordain straight men. I could care less about the orientation of my priest. I care a great deal about his integrity. "The Filth" is that we sometimes ordain men who go on to become Pharisees. "The Filth" is that we have the whited sepulchres of Matthew 23:27 in positions of power and authority in the Church.

Those who wish to question the motivations of those who have denounced O'Brien on the eve of the conclave have a point. But it is a mere mote compared with the beam in the Church's eye. One imagines they could not stomach the idea of him having a say in who is to be our next Holy Father.

It is not then, for me, a question of "Who knew?" but rather a case of "He, O'Brien, knew!" Yet his hubris drove him on when he had better to have refused high office.

Pablo the Mexican said...

For your contemplation:

In the story, the Parliament was Freemasonic.

The soldiers that placed the Sacred Heart on the flag were never harmed.

When we make excuses for ignorant Bishops, this is Charity.

But remember their are many that are the avowed enemies of Christ and will go down to the fires of Hell shaking their fists at Him.

Many knew they were murdering souls and worked directly for Satan.


pablothemexican said...

"...with the beam in the Church's eye..."

Holy Mother Church is without stain or beams in Her eyes.

When we speak of Christs Bride in this manner, we are joined with apoststes and heretics and no longer are we Catholic.

I would hate to hear what you really hold in your heart towards your Priest and Confessor.


Greg Collins said...


You would then hate to hear of love, of respect, and of admiration. And that would be your loss.

Unless you hold Authority in Holy Mother Church it is not your place to determine, here or elsewhere, who is an apostate, a heretic and not a loyal Catholic.

If you wish to persist in a fantasy that the Church on earth is already perfected then, in Charity, I must allow you that. Even though I hold you to be in error. But you might want to re-read CCC 823-829

parepidemos said...

Sadie Vacantist: I am not sure of the relevance of you mentioning Patricia McKeever or of the high praise you give her. However, if you are aware that she had heard of rumours, then she must have told you; is that not the very gossip in which you claim she did not indudge?

As for why the Edinburgh priests kept quiet until recently, only they know the reasons. I surmise that they did so simply because he was about to retire. Had they done so earlier, it would have been extremely difficult to remain in the archdiocese especially if the cardinal remained in place after any investigation.

Regardless, the Church in Scotland has been deeply wounded and we should keep all concerned in prayer.

pooka said...


If you read carefully what I wrote you will see that I am NOT suggesting that celibacy is a cause of paedophilia, rather of the paucity of whistleblowers amongst the clergy.

Crux Fidelis said...

In the Guardian of all places:

Red Maria said...

"The Jewess, Judith Reisman ... homosexuals are looking to destroy us ..."

Dear oh God, the language. By their fruits indeed.

Sadie Vacantist said...

It's wrong to call a proud Jewess Judith Reisman, Jewish? This is nuts. You clearly have not read her - she is doing the Catholic Church a favour.