The Vatican is downplaying the latest piece of evidence in the abuse crisis - a 1997 letter from late Archbishop Luciano Storero to Ireland’s bishops instructing the bishops not to report sexual abuse cases to secular authorities but to keep it in the Church. Jerry Coyne has a pdf of the letter. His analysis:
[W]hy shouldn’t the bishops report abuse to Irish authorities? The real reason, of course, is because it’s terribly damaging to the Church and its authority. But the letter says this: “The text, however, contains procedures and dispositions which appear contrary to canonical discipline and which, if applied, could invalidate the acts of the same Bishops who are attempting to put a stop to these problems. If such procedures were to be followed by the Bishops and there were cases of eventual hierarchical recourse lodged at the Holy See, the results could be highly embarrassing and detrimental to those same Diocesan authorities.”
Translation: Don’t report child abuse to nonreligious authorities because it might result in your being embarrassed at the Vatican; and it could even hurt your career.
And let us be clear who was presiding over this disgraceful and disgusting negligence of a core moral value: the protection of children from abuse and rape. The Pope ultimately responsible, John Paul II, is on an absurdly fast track for beatification. How will history look on a church that made a saint out of a Pope who ignored, suppressed, and had underlings covering up the rape of countless vulnerable children? In Ireland, the abuse was so severe, so long-running, so protected by a vile collusion between church and state that the attempt to hush it up is damning. It seems to me a stretch to argue that the Church under John Paul II returned to a very papal hierarchical structure and simultaneously say the Pope has no responsibility for the mass rape and abuse of children he so blithely presided over.
There's a reason the Church has traditionally waited a very, very long time before considering sainthood. That's because we can have the perspective of distance, of seeing the full life and legacy, and weighing every saint's flaws as well as grace. There is no doubt in my mind that John Paul II was a towering figure of Christianity who deserves a very critical role in the history of the last century. He was a deeply holy man, and sainthood may one day be appropriate. But there is also no doubt in my mind that he was a disgraceful manager of the Church with respect to the greatest crisis it has faced in generations. His relationship with and protection of the pedophile, incestuous neo-fascist, Marcial Maciel, alone makes beatification, to my mind, an appalling swipe at the children John Paul II abandoned to the wolves.
(Photo: Pope John Paul II waves to the wellwisher 28 April 1989 upon his arrival in Antanarivo at the beginning of a 10-day Africa tour. It was his 41st International Pastoral visit. By Derrick Ceyrac/AFP/Getty Images.)