Friday, October 06, 2006

Irish Examiner examines Panorama

One of the programme’s main ‘proofs’ of a Vatican abuse cover-up was a document entitled Crimen Sollicitationis which, while published in 1962, traces its origins back to the 1700s. The document itself is complex and deals mainly with offences relating to confession. While it requires silence involved in a Church trial, this is necessary for at least three reasons; it allows witnesses to speak freely, it protects the reputation of the accused until guilt is established and it allows victims to come forward free from invasive publicity.
In fact, rather than fostering cover-ups, the document itself mandates that anyone aware of such allegations of solicitation must report them to the relevant bishop or face excommunication themselves.
In 2001, Cardinal Ratzinger reserved exclusive Church jurisdiction over such cases to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican, primarily with the aim of speeding up the defrocking of priests. Five priests have already been dismissed in the Ferns diocese alone as a result of this new procedure.
If Colm O’Gorman were correct that this Pope is responsible for a massive cover-up of child abuse cases, he has a strange way of showing it in practice. On two separate occasions within the first 13 months of his papacy he imposed strict penalties on famous founders of religious orders accused of abuse. The first was Fr Gino Burresi, founder of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Largely unknown in Ireland. He was immensely popular in Italy and recruited 150 men to his order in little more than a decade. But neither his apparent success nor his advanced age of 73 made him immune to sanction by Pope Benedict. Following an investigation into allegations of abuse, the Pope banned him practising as a priest in any context whatsoever. For a priest, especially the founder of an order, this is a stunning Church penalty.
The same happened a year later in the case of 86-year-old Mexican Fr Marcial Maciel , the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. Hugely influential in the Church, his order was one of the fastest growing worldwide and has an associated lay group with tens of thousands of members. As a cardinal, Ratzinger initiated an investigation into accusations against Maciel; as Pope he imposed a ban on public practice as a priest and a requirement to live a life of penance. Many Catholics believe Fr Maciel to be innocent, and indeed he may be – there was no Church trial or judgement of his guilt or otherwise because of his advanced age and poor health.
But Pope Benedict still took a consistently hard line even when there was only a question mark of suspicion.
Both of these cases were made public by way of official Vatican pronouncements and not by leaks or investigative journalists. Does tackling two cases of high-profile founders of religious orders and imposing one of the most serious penalties possible look like a cover-up?
How objective can O’Gorman and Panorama really be given that they never even mentioned either case? Were they aware of these cases? If not, their investigative journalism is not up to much. If they were aware, why did they leave them out? Surely it couldn’t be because it would spoil a one-sided character assassination of Pope Benedict?

If you saw the programme then complain
As the BBC has repeated the programme, first thing this morning I repeated my complaint, rather than sit there why don't you complain too!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How very interesting. More people should read the Irish Examiner and certain people at the BBC should be nmade to eat it.

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