THE TABLET THE I NTERNATIONAL CATHOLIC WEEKLY
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To describe the covering up of clerical abuse in the Church as equivalent to omertà – the code by which Mafia bosses enforce the secrecy of their own criminal actions – is to use language as strong as any employed by the Church’s critics over the last 10 years. The fact that it comes from Mgr Charles Scicluna, Promoter of Justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the man with responsibility for dealing with the thousands of childabuse cases reported to the Vatican, suggests that he and his colleagues have fully grasped the extent of the evil that infected the Church over this matter. Mafia bosses are, above all, interested in self-protection; they flee from justice. The failure of the Church in the past to ensure justice for the victims of child abuse has emerged as no less of a scandal than the abuse itself, made worse when it was the result of actions by persons in authority. It was a crime in canon law to show malicious or fraudulent negligence in the exercise of one’s duty, Mgr Scicluna said, indicating that bishops could be deposed from their sees for falling down in their duty in this respect.
He was speaking in Rome at the end of an international symposium, entitled “Towards Healing and Renewal”, sponsored by the Pontifical Gregorian University and attended by more than 100 bishops and 30 religious superiors. One abuse survivor who spoke called for bishops to be stripped of their posts if they failed to protect children from predatory paedophile priests. There are still notorious cases of high-level Church officials who have never faced justice for their errors of neglect.
The holding of the symposium, and the seriousness with which people such as Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, treated it, suggests that this department of the Vatican at least has caught up with the expectations of clergy and laity worldwide. They have at times been exasperated by the apparent inability of the official Church to grasp the enormity of the crisis. There were glimpses, nevertheless, of problems still unresolved. For instance, an American priest psychologist who has dealt with clerical child abusers said the organisational structure of the Church was skewed in favour of offenders, who were more likely to be believed by their bishops than those complaining of abuse. But there may be an even deeper problem – the “invisibility of the victim” in a system that concentrates on the sin of the perpetrator, as if that were the more urgent issue.
It was emphasised in the course of the symposium that the needs of victims should be the Church’s first priority. But that is hard to square with the experience of an abuse survivor who seeks compensation in the courts, and finds the Church’s lawyers hiding behind every legal nicety. A fulsome and sincere apology, such as that issued by Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham after a criminal case this week, is of far more use to a victim than a legal wrangle. Overall, however, the fact of this symposium and the frankness with which it was conducted – despite the unnecessary exclusion of the press from its proceedings – represents a big step forward. It is not just victims who need healing, but the Church itself.
THE CHALLENGE TO SYRIA’S ALLIES
Having vetoed proposals at the United Nations Security Council to address the profound humanitarian crisis in Syria, the onus is now on Russia and China to find an alternative way. A war of words broke out after the veto, with the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, calling it “a betrayal of the Syrian people” and the Chinese Government replying that he was being “extremely irresponsible”. But this actually increases the pressure on Russia and China to prove they can steer events in the direction of peace. If they now fail, they will have made themselves look callous, foolish and devious in the eyes of world opinion.
population. They are obviously scared of accepting a precedent which could be used against them in years to come. The plan sponsored by the Arab League and the West did not actually sanction military intervention, yet ironically it made that more likely. Turkey, facing a major refugee crisis on its borders, is now actively considering a no-fly zone over parts of Syria, possibly with Arab and Nato support. Arms are undoubtedly being smuggled to the Syrian rebels, who have shown outstanding tenacity, by sympathetic neighbours. The situation could easily slip out of control.
They may be proved foolish anyway, as recent developments suggest that President al-Assad himself has lost control of events, and he is Russia and China’s main pressure point. Whatever Russian-Chinese plan he signs up to, far from being a triumph of Russian-Chinese peacemaking diplomacy, it may prove to be worthless. The president has made promises many times before. Yet all the world can see indiscriminate attacks on civilians continuing long after the Syrian Government has announced cessations of military activity and withdrawals of troops. The country is not only heading towards civil war; it is heading towards anarchy.
There may be genuine room for disagreement, however, over the nature of the insurrection that President al-Assad faces. His regime is mainly Alawi, a branch of Shia Islam; the protesting majority are Sunni Muslims. But there are other minorities at risk, notably the Christians; they are well aware that in other parts of the Middle East Sunni fundamentalism has been hostile to minorities. So they have tended to back the Alawis, as most likely to offer them protection from persecution. The rebels have disavowed any such intentions; they claim to have Alawis and Christians fighting on their side, and insist they have no sectarian motives. But with conditions on the ground so close to chaos, nothing can be guaranteed.
The UN veto was tainted by self-interest, and looked like an attempt by the two powers to draw a line under the Libyan operation, refusing to give UN sanction to any more regimechanging military interventions disguised as humanitarian projects. China and Russia have always opposed the doctrine that the international community may, in extreme cases, intervene militarily to topple a government which mistreats its own
The right move for Western governments now is to hold Russian and Chinese feet close to the fire, embarrassing them as much as possible, so they have to maximise their pressure on President al-Assad, and hope that that way lies peace – or face humiliation in the eyes of world opinion. They may not have wanted to intervene in the internal affairs of another country, but that is precisely what they now have to do.
2 | THE TABLET | 11 February 2012 COLUMNS
5 CL I F FORD LONGLEY
‘Kirchner is fulfilling John Paul II’s portrayal of the 1982 Falklands conflict’
1 1 CHRISTOPHER HOWSE’S
PRESSWATCH ‘The Queen seems clear in her own mind about who is master and who servant’
1 6 PARISH PRACTICE 1 7 NOTEBOOK 1 8 L ETTERS 1 9 THE L I V I NG S P I R I T 2 0 PUZZLES
1 1 F EBRUARY 2 0 1 2
COVER STORY 4 Heritage for sale Sam Adams
Moves by two cash-strapped religious communities to sell valuable historic artefacts are causing concern for church conservationists
6 When the hurt stops and the healing starts Elena Curti
Victim Marie Collins was among hundreds at an abuse symposium in Rome, where she told The Tablet the Church is changing
2 1 BR I AN MORTON
Tower: an epic history of the Tower of London Nigel Jones
J EREMY BEGBIE Earthly Visions: theology and the challenges of art T.J. Gorringe
HARRIET PATERSON The Buddha in the Attic Julie Otsuka
2 4 F EATURE
Robert Thicknesse Sophie and Mary Bevan
C I NEMA Francine Stock A Dangerous Method and The Woman in Black
T E L EV I S I ON John Morrish Death Unexplained
THEATRE Mark Lawson Our New Girl
8 Iron and velvet Denis Tuohy
Britain’s first woman Prime Minister was known for her steely determination. But, as one reporter recalls, she had another side too
1 0 Someone to talk to Paul Farmer
In tough economic times, the Church is increasingly focusing on the needs of those suffering in, not only body, but mind and spirit as well
1 2 Making markets moral Daniel K. Finn
A leading professor of theology and economics traces a path out of the current financial crisis and towards a more humane society
1 4 Love in a Catholic climate Liz Dodd
As St Valentine’s Day nears, young Catholics are looking to the internet to help them search for their perfect partner
2 8 THE CHURCH I N THE WORLD
Pope puts ‘healing abuse victims’ at top of the Christian agenda 3 1 L ETTER FROM ROME 3 2 NEWS FROM BRITAIN AND I RELAND
Ireland ‘too raw and angry’ after abuse scandals to welcome the Pope
COVER ILLUSTRATION: DANI JIMENEZ
11 February 2012 | THE TABLET | 3