The Cardinal, The Nuncio And The Priest.
In the matter of Cardinal O’Brien, Father Ray Blake does me the great honour of a mention, and actually of an entire blog post in answer to questions I had posed in a previous blog post of mine. His answers are, I must say, very interesting, and I will therefore report them here together with some short – as far as I can ever do “short” – observations of mine.
I had posed the question: “Is it probable that no one had noticed?” , to which he answers, inter alia, as follows:
“The great problem of the clergy, is that we tend to be naive about both scandal and sex.”
“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…”
I found the answer consoling. I had already stated that “innocence is slow in discovering filth”, and it seems to me Father Blake beautifully repeats the concept. This also tells us, though, that the homosexual wolves will have an easy game in not being discovered, or exposed, by the innocent and honest people they have around them. If I reason correctly, this means the homosexual predator will be able to carefully study his own environment and decide when and whom to attack, in the reasonable certainty that even if things were to go massively wrong (seen from his perspective) the probability of getting away with it will be high.
to the question “Is it possible no one ever sent notes and warnings to his superiors?” the following consideration (again, inter alia) are added:
“There is no mechanism for reporting suspicions to superiors, and certainly not if one’s 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”.
This I found rather disquieting. In my innocence, I always thought a carefully worded anonymous letter would awaken the interest of some vigilant chap at the Congregation for the Clergy, whose role is – I have always thought – exactly to react to situations which would require an anonymous letter. Of course, no one expects the Spanish inquisition, but that Rome does not have a structure able and willing to cope with friendly advice is very sad indeed. It means, among other things, that a bishop only needs the friendship or gratitude of the nuncio to be fairly sure of impunity. This, in turn, will allow him to fish in his own pond for the homosexual fishes undisturbed. One starts to understand how situations like “Miami Vice” can happen.
3. To the question : “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” the following reflection is added:
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.
Again, an alarming picture emerges. There is, in modern parlance, an awful lack of proper governance mechanisms, and non-existence of proper codes of conduct like they exist everywhere else (say: to whom one may complain or denounce a criminal offence; who examines the complaint/denunciation; how the whistleblowers are protected, and the like).
It seems to me that a system is in place in which many do not even see the evil (good for them, I add); those who get in touch with the evil are basically left alone, as they do not have any serious interlocutor (the nuncio can’t be trusted; the bishop is obviously extremely dangerous) and Rome is far away and, in substance, uninterested or too busy. The reticence, which I find excessive, to act on rumours (not with condemnations, of course; but with carefully conducted investigations) might well do the rest.
This situation also is in stark contrast with what happens to the poor priest, who can be suspended from his functions and/or stipend at the first totally unproved allegation made by some boy or mother; suspension leading, as we all know, to a substantial reputational damage even when the poor priest is, in the end, acquitted (last time I looked, 90% of the cases?). Granted, in this case the accusers have a name; but the difference is striking.
In modern organisations, the importance of whistleblowing as a way to encourage and enforce proper behaviour has been long – and rightly so – acknowledged. Many blogs exist who are dedicated to whistleblowing, and whose existence is one of the main reasons anonymous blogging is not only allowed, but positively protected in all Western democracies. Anonymity isn’t bad per se, and well-trained people are very good at recognising what is probably private revenge from what is probably useful denunciation of authentic criminal behaviour.
I am told the Latin Inquisition had post boxes (in Rome and, I suppose, elsewhere) where everyone could put anonymous letters about heretics and the like. Every lead was followed. I am sure most leads… led to nothing, but the system seems to me more accurate, more protective of the sheep and the priests, and in general fairer than what happens today.
I hope the next Pope will dedicate great time and energy to these issues. Without proper rules of governance, the danger of further “Miami Vice” will always be present; particularly so, as we are afflicted by the disgraceful generation of guitars and tambourines priests, now elevated to purple and red.