|John L. Allen Jr.
"Yes, if the emphasis is on the
indefectability of the whole church, with the Petrine office as its head. What I
understand the doctrine of infallibility to be protecting is the idea that the
church will never err from God's will for it."
George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury,
answering the question: Could you accept the doctrine of papal
Canonist criticizes U.S.
bishops sex abuse norms; Martyrs of the Oriental Catholic churches in 20th
century Europe; A conversation with the former Archbishop of Canterbury; John
Paul's latest book
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
no secret that many canon lawyers in the Catholic church are not wild about the
American Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with
Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons, which spell out
the process for removing priests from ministry after one act of abuse. Canonists
charge that the norms fail to respect the due process rights of accused priests,
though most say they’re an improvement over the non-judicial process the
American bishops envisioned in Dallas in June 2002.
Canonists are typically publicity adverse, so their concern has long taken the
form of a whispering campaign. It broke into full public view, however, in Rome
on March 25, at a conference on “Justice and Penal Processes in the Church,”
sponsored by Santa Croce University.
Though no one will say so out loud, the conference is, in part, a response to
the American sex abuse crisis.
Joaquín Llobell, a Spanish Opus Dei priest and professor of canonical procedure, delivered a paper on Thursday, March 25. Llobell sits on the apostolic signatura, a tribunal of the holy see, and is a judge on the appeals court of the Vatican City State. His paper was titled “Reconciling the interests of the injured parties with the rights of the defendant: the right to due process.” It offered a ringing defense of due process – and a criticism of both the American norms and the Vatican.
Llobell opened by asserting that respect for the rights of the accused is an
“absolute necessity … so that any judicial act may be worthy of that name.” In
fact, respect for due process, he suggested, is an “index for measuring the
degree of civilization of a people.” He noted that the 1967 Synod of Bishops
listed “defense of the rights of the faithful” among the core principles for the
revision of the Code of Canon Law, completed in 1983.
Llobell said that several popes have insisted that the church’s legal system should be a speculum iustitiae, that is, a “mirror of justice” for the world. Llobell acknowledged that canon law sees protecting the community as a legitimate aim, but said this must be balanced against protecting the rights of the individual. He warned against a “subtle, but penetrating, temptation to mortify the rights of the single individual in order to protect those of the community.”
arguments that cut against the “zero tolerance” policy of the American bishops,
Llobell said that canon law has a bias in favor of rehabilitation of the
offender, and that it seeks proportionality between offense and punishment –
meaning that “one size fits all” penalties are foreign to canonical tradition.
Spanish professor criticized the American Charter for the Protection of
Children and Young People for asking bishops to inform civil authorities of
any accusation against a priest, “perhaps without distinguishing sufficiently
the origin of the report and its credibility.”
Llobell also took the American bishops to task for not pursuing canonical trials
against abuser priests much earlier in the game. He charged that some bishops
like to perform only the pleasant aspects of their job, leaving the pope or the
Roman Curia to play the heavy. In fact, he said, the Roman Curia tried in the
1990s to convince the American bishops to set up inter-diocesan tribunals at the
national level to process sex abuse cases, but nothing happened.
[American tribunals] manage to adjudicate around 50,000 cases of annulment of
marriage every year,” Llobell said.
Llobell’s criticism, however, was not reserved to the far side of the Atlantic.
He also expressed reservations about Vatican policy.
example, he criticized revisions to sex abuse norms for the universal church
approved by John Paul II in February 2003, which removed the statute of
limitations, allowed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to defrock a
priest using non-judicial means, and prevented appeal of a CDF decision.
the question of appeal, Llobell pointed to a recent rejection by the CDF of an
appeal from women excommunicated because they declared themselves ordained to
the priesthood on a boat in the Danube River. Although Llobell said the
excommunication was justified, he charged that the CDF’s refusal of appeal laid
waste to papal guarantees that the dicasteries of the Roman Curia are not above
administrative means, Llobell quoted Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, a Pole who
heads the Congregation for Catholic Education and who is a noted canon lawyer,
that applying a permanent penalty this way is “a strong regress” on Vatican II
teaching about the dignity of the human person and human rights.
Llobell noted that John Paul’s 2002 document Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela,
promulgating norms for the CDF on sex abuse cases, allows accusers to remain
anonymous in some instances. Yet a cornerstone of procedural justice, he said,
is the right to confront one’s accusers.
be clear: Llobell is no liberal reformer. He wonders aloud why bishops don’t
prosecute priests who tolerate birth control in the confessional, and he
applauds American Archbishop Raymond Burke’s denial of communion to pro-choice
that reason, Llobell’s critique of the American bishops, and even the Vatican,
takes on all the more significance. One can assume that what Llobell said out
loud, other canonists around Rome are thinking – and that includes some who will
be advising the Holy See on renewing its approval of the American norms, which
expire in March 2005.
* * *
Llobell was not the only one with questions.
of the strongest expressions of perplexity about the American norms, in fact,
came from an American: Monsignor Kenneth Boccafola of Rockville Center, a judge
on the Roman Rota. Boccafola is third in seniority among 28 judges on the Rota.
Boccafola said March 26 that because the norms are new, and procedures arising
from them are confidential, it is difficult to draw lessons from experience.
Still, he said, there are questions about “the difficulty of integrating certain
provisions of the norms with general principles of ecclesiastical penal law.”
difficulties, according to Boccafola, include:
• Canon 9 stipulates that
laws concern the future, not the past – meaning that a person cannot be judged
under a law that did not exist at the time of his or her offense. Yet in some
cases American priests have been permanently removed from ministry for
decades-old acts of abuse, under a policy created in 2002.
• The norms do not take
account of aggravating or extenuating circumstances.
• The ability of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to waive “prescription,” the
canonical term for a statue of limitations, seems “an unfavorable change in the
law to the disadvantage of the accused.” Boccafola said this practice is
difficult to reconcile both with natural justice and with existing law on
• The “zero tolerance”
policy, according to which permanent removal from ministry is automatic for any
act of sexual abuse, does not allow proportionality between the crime committed
and the penalty imposed. It seems to contradict canon 1344, which says a judge
can always adjust a penalty according to his conscience and discretion.
• The definition of
“sexual abuse” is so vague that it imperils the idea of uniform administration
• The norms claim to cover
religious order priests, but Boccafola questioned whether the bishops have that
Finally, Boccafola questioned article nine of the norms, which allows bishops to
remove a priest from ministry using administrative means rather than a judicial
process. He says this seems an attempt to resurrect the old canonical idea of a
bishop suspending a priest on the basis of “informed conscience,” but Boccafola
notes this was never a permanent penalty. It might have been better to bring
back the idea of “informed conscience,” he said, rather than treating the power
to suspend a priest indefinitely as part of the bishop’s ordinary administrative
Bishop Velasio De Paolis, secretary of the Apostolic Signatura, also argued
March 26 against handling criminal matters through administrative means.
“Today the tendency is widely diffused to put things on an administrative
level,” De Paolis said. “But it doesn’t seem that this tendency can be approved.
The absence of the sense of justice and the exigency of repairing the order that
has been violated is damaging both to the individual and to the community.”
Davide Cito, a canon law professor at Santa Croce, said the CDF’s ability to
waive prescription on a case-by-case basis is hard to reconcile with universal
“Personally I don’t know how to reconcile the guiding principles of the
canonical system currently in force with a faculty that at its extreme permits
the application on a case-by-case basis of a norm unfavorable to the accused,”
prescription, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the promoter of justice in the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and thus the official principally
responsible for sex abuse cases, took a different view.
“Practice indicates that the term of 10 years is not adequate for this type of
case, and perhaps one could hope for a return to the previous system of
imprescriptibility of grave delicts,” he wrote in his paper, referring to
serious canonical offenses. By “imprescriptability,” Scicluna meant that such
offenses would have no statute of limitations.
* * *
I taught church history to high school sophomores, I included a unit on
martyrdom. One aim was to make the point that, whatever frustrations one might
have with the church, there’s something sufficiently precious about it that
serious people have died rather than part with it.
fancy myself that I was a pretty good teacher. I’m certain, however, that a year
with me would not have the impact on my students as 10 minutes with either
82-year-old Bishop Tertulian Ioan Langa, a Romanian, or 78-year-old Bishop Pavlo
Vasylyk, a Ukrainian.
men appeared at a Vatican news conference March 23 to present the new volume
Faith and Martyrdom: The Oriental Catholic Churches in 20th Century
Europe. Published by the Vatican Library, the book collects documents from a
1998 meeting on the suffering of the Eastern Catholic churches in the 20th
century. These churches, which follow Eastern customs and liturgies but are in
full communion with Rome, found themselves on the wrong side of the Iron
Curtain, and paid a price in blood.
and Vasylyk offered first-hand testimony.
Vasylyk was arrested in 1947 for carrying medicine to Ukrainian rebels fighting
the Soviets, and was sentenced to 10 years in a gulag. He was ordained
clandestinely in 1950.
“Conditions were worse than in the German concentration camps,” Vasylyk said.
“People died from the cold, from various illnesses, and from constant
humiliations against human dignity.”
Vasylyk was released in 1956, then re-arrested in 1959. He was offered a choice:
convert to Orthodoxy, or stay in prison. He chose the latter, and was
incarcerated until 1964. After his release, he was exiled for five years in a
neighboring Soviet republic. The KGB monitored him constantly, always
threatening to lock him up for propagating the Greek Catholic church.
Langa’s tale is even more harrowing.
was arrested in 1946 at the age of 24 for refusing to join a union under the
aegis of the Community Party and was sentenced to 20 years of forced labor. He
recounted a series of mind-bending incidents from this time.
1948, for example, he was beaten by guards with an iron bar on his feet every
day for two weeks.
shocks seemed to run up my spinal column and explode in my brain,” he said.
guards didn’t ask questions, Langa said. They beat him just to prove that they
could. Next, they tied his hands and feet and forced his head down, stuffing a
sock in his mouth.
had been used in my boots, and in the mouths of other beneficiaries of socialist
humanism,” Langa said bitterly.
this stage, Langa said, he was incapable of protesting. The guards interpreted
his silence as fanaticism, and intensified the torture.
apex came on Holy Thursday when the guards produced a dog that looked to Langa
more like a wolf. They ordered Langa to run back and forth in his cell, which
was two by three meters. Every time he paused from exhaustion, the dog was
trained to bite him on the shoulders, neck and back. After 39 hours, the guards
finally let him stop. The object was to force Langa to write a confession
denouncing everyone he knew, something he refused to do.
Afterwards, Langa was transferred to a prison eight meters underground, where
the lack of air forced prisoners to take turns breathing deeply. The stench of
feces and urine was overpowering. He was later moved to an above-ground location
where “we lived on less than a chicken gets.” To survive the cold, prisoners had
to stay in constant motion. Langa motivated himself by repeating, “I don’t want
striking thing about all this is that Vasylyk and Langa weren’t suffering 1,700
years ago, or in a far-off land. This was a scant 40 years ago, and in locations
just an hour’s plane ride from la dolce vita in Rome.
the pope’s 2003 trip to Slovakia, I interviewed an elderly Jesuit in the capital
city of Trnava who had had similar experiences. Talking later to young people in
his parish, I was dumbfounded to find that they didn’t know his story, because
he had never spoken of it.
the news conference, Andrea Riccardi, a historian and founder of the Community
of Sant’Egidio, summed up the case for keeping these memories alive.
Speaking of Eastern Christians, Riccardi said: “In difficult times like the 20th
century, a century of democracy but also of totalitarianism, their condition was
that of martyrdom, the martyrdom of a people. This isn’t a lamentation, or
rhetoric … it’s history. And, for the church, it’s a memory of faith.”
* * *
the panel broke up, Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, prefect of Congregation for the Oriental Churches, was asked the burning question concerning Eastern
churches these days – will there be a patriarchate for the Greek Catholic church
in Ukraine? At present, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholics, Cardinal
Lubomyr Husar, is recognized as a “major archbishop,” but his 5.5-million-strong
followers want to proclaim him a patriarch. The debate puts the Vatican between
the rock of Ukrainian insistence, and the hard place of opposition from the
Orthodox who fear Catholic expansionism.
the Eastern Catholics remain second-class citizens, a colleague asked Daoud, if
the Vatican holds this request at arm’s length?
can’t say this,” Daoud responded. “The Oriental churches are accepted and
considered equal churches with full canonical rights. There are motives of
opportunity for not offending the Orthodox sister churches, but not for
minimizing the value of these [Eastern Catholic] churches.”
surprisingly, Vasylyk had a different view. I asked him if he felt the
Ukrainians had earned a patriarchate through their suffering.
justified not only on the basis of our martyrdom and suffering, but in
consideration of the faith of the people,” Vasylyk said through a translator.
“It is a lived faith, based on love for the Holy Father and for Rome. Also, in
part it’s a question of governance. The Ukrainian church already has a
patriarchal structure. On the basis of all this, I would say yes, the Ukrainian
church merits this recognition of its status.”
he feel that until they get it, the Ukrainians will be second-class citizens?
touches us is not that we feel small without the recognition,” Vasylyk said.
“The patriarchate is necessary not to prove that we exist, but in part to give
us strength before the Ukrainian government. We are a people with a large base
of believers, and there are other churches with fewer believers that already
have this status.”
* * *
George Carey, who stepped down after 11 and a half years as Archbishop of
Canterbury in 2002, is in Rome for a few weeks this spring as a guest lecturer
at the Jesuit-run Gregorian University. On March 23, he and his wife Eileen
spoke at the Oratory of St. Francis Xavier del Caravita on their experiences in
the ecumenical movement.
Carey’s most newsworthy remark concerned a 1991 response from the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog agency, to the
final report of the first round of Anglican-Catholic dialogue. That response
appeared in the midst of a wrenching debate within the Church of England over
the ordination of women. Carey hypothesized that Anglicans might have been
persuaded to “go slow” on the women’s issue if the CDF had not “taken the steam
out of the ecumenical movement.”
I write about this topic more in “Anglican ordination of women hastened by Vatican document,” which appears in the April 2 issue of National Catholic Reporter.
Careys, who have four children and 13 grandchildren, described their background
in the conservative, “low church” evangelical wing of the Church of England.
They described struggling to maintain what they see as best about that tradition
– a love for scripture, deep moral seriousness – while also transcending its
closed, anti-ecumenical worldview.
said he was born in London’s East End into a cockney working-class family. He
became involved in an evangelical youth group, but “couldn’t take the narrowness
– no drinking, no dancing, no cinema.”
Whenever someone from the evangelical wing preached, Carey said, “it was always
reaction? “Come on, they can’t be that bad.”
the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, the formal body for
dialogue between the two denominations, began issuing documents, Carey said the
evangelical consensus was sharply negative. He defended its findings on the
Eucharist and on ministry.
felt these were astounding agreements with which I could wholeheartedly agree,”
During Carey’s term as Archbishop of Canterbury, he visited the Vatican six
times, more than all his predecessors. He supported ARCIC’s document The Gift
of Authority in 1999, which proposed that a universal primacy (i.e., the
papacy) could be acknowledged even before the branches of Christianity are in
full communion. In a way, Carey provided a model through his close relationship
with John Paul II.
“There is a sense in which I saw him as a senior brother in Christ,” Carey said.
“I still do.”
summed up his attitude to Anglican-Catholic relations.
impatient by nature,” he said. “I look at our churches, which are so much alike
in so many respects. I attend Roman masses, and feel this could easily be a
Church of England service. I wonder why we can’t be committed to one another and
have agreement on unity tomorrow,” Carey said.
the other side of me says, we have to leave it to God,” Carey said. “The journey
* * *
During discussion, Carey was asked if he had ever considered entering Roman
Catholicism. “No, this was never a temptation,” he said. “I love my church. I
love its argumentativeness, its untidiness, its openness.”
acknowledged that in moments like the present, when the Anglican Communion is
badly divided over the consecration of a gay bishop in the United States, he
looks longingly at Roman Catholic’s more muscular hierarchical tradition.
the same time, Carey said, strong central authority has to be balanced by
collegiality among the bishops. In that sense, he said, Anglicanism and Roman
Catholicism have much to learn from one another.
words that will cheer Catholics concerned about Anglican “fuzziness,” Carey
stressed that this mutual exchange has its limits.
everything is open for discussion,” he said. “There is a given-ness about the
Christian faith, its scripture, its tradition and its reason.”
“Sometimes,” Carey said of his own Anglican Communion, “we’ve gone too far,
given room to people who doubt too freely.”
noted that both Catholics and Anglicans have taken steps to separate themselves
from one another. On the Catholic side, the most important stumbling blocks came
in the 19th century, with the Marian dogmas and the proclamation of
papal infallibility. For Anglicans, the problematic moves are more recent:
women’s ordination, and now homosexuality.
the latter issue, Carey is firmly in the conservative camp.
a traditionalist,” Carey said. “I don’t believe there are cogent reasons for
making practicing homosexuals ministers in the church of God.”
asked Carey about papal infallibility. Is there a sense in which he can accept
if the emphasis is on the indefectability of the whole church, with the Petrine
office as its head,” Carey said. “What I understand the doctrine of
infallibility to be protecting is the idea that the church will never err from
God’s will for it.”
* * *
before the Caravita talk, Carey had returned from a visit to Israel and
Palestine. On the assassination of the Hamas founder, Carey said it will make
the situation “far worse.”
was a reckless, stupid act,” he said. “I can’t understand what Israel is playing
at. They are pouring oil on the fire.”
the same time, Carey acknowledged that Sheik Ahmed Yassin gave credence to the
idea that suicide bombers are martyrs to Islam, something he called a “terrible
creed.” At the same time, Carey insisted that his murder will “only cause more
* * *
Paul’s pop star-style reign as “king of all media” continued this week, with the
release of a new CD and the gala announcement of a forthcoming book.
Multimedia San Paolo, a division of the media-savvy Paolini religious
community, published the CD, entitled Alza la voce can forza (“Raise your
voice with strength,” a phrase from Isaiah 40:9). It’s a collection of 25
readings from the Bible, mostly psalms, set to music, with the voice of the pope
commenting on each text.
is the second papal CD produced by the Paolini. The first, Abba Pater,
was issued in 1999.
Meanwhile John Paul’s new book promises to be a major global publishing event,
judging by the gala news conference staged by the Italian publishing giant
Mondadori at Rome’s Exclesior Hotel on March 24.
decade ago, Mondadori published the pope’s Crossing the Threshold of Hope,
which sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. On Wednesday, officials said
they hope to equal or surpass that mark this time around.
Entitled Alzatevi, Andiamo! (“Get Up, Let Us Go,” a quote from Mark
14:42), the book will offer John Paul’s reflections on his ministry as a bishop.
It is in a sense a follow-up to his 1996 title Gift and Mystery, which
dealt with his experiences as a priest.
book will appear on May 18, the pope’s 84th birthday. Vatican
spokesperson Joaquin Navarro-Valls said it is a combination of autobiographical
memories of the pope’s experiences as a bishop, and his religious reflections on
Navarro said the pope wrote the book between March and August of 2003, jotting
some of it in his own hand and dictating other parts. Some Italian papers
speculated that this might be the pope’s last published work, but Navarro
insisted that there will be others.
reporter pressed Navarro, noting that “Get Up, Let Us Go” are words Jesus
uttered only hours before his death.
but in Catholic theology there is always the resurrection,” Navarro quipped in
Mondadori refused to say how much it paid the Vatican publishing house for the
worldwide rights to the new title.
never reveal the details of our contracts,” Gian Arturo Ferrari of Mondadori
told a crowded ballroom full of reporters. “Given that we normally don’t do
this, we certainly are not going to do it with the pope.”
Navarro-Valls told reporters that earnings will be directed by the pope to
whatever charitable cause he judges most pressing at the time. With Crossing
the Threshold of Hope, Ferrari said, proceeds went to the construction of
churches in Eastern Europe.
Because the late founder of Mondadori, Leonardo Mondadori, was an admirer of
Opus Dei, the same Catholic group to which Navarro belongs, some observers
speculated that ties between Mondadori and Opus Dei might explain the Vatican’s
decision to award them the contract. Aside from the fact that both parties deny
any such relationship, however, the hypothesis seems improbable given that
Mondadori was the Italian publisher of the Da Vinci Code.
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