Potiphar's Wife

Potiphar's Wife: The Vatican's Secret and Child Sexual Abuse

Kieran Tapsell
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: ATF (Australia) Ltd.
Pages: 376
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt163t8c3
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    Potiphar's Wife
    Book Description:

    The ‘cover-up’ of child sexual abuse by the Catholic Church has been occurring under the pontificate of six popes since 1922. For 1500 years, the Catholic Church accepted that clergy who sexually abused children deserved to be stripped of their status as priests and then imprisoned. A series of papal and Council decrees from the twelfth century required such priests to be dismissed from the priesthood, and then handed over to the civil authorities for further punishment.That all changed in 1922 when Pope Pius XI issued his decree Crimen Sollicitationis that created a de facto ‘privilege of clergy’ by imposing the ‘secret of the Holy Office’ on all information obtained through the Church’s canonical investigations. If the State did not know about these crimes, then there would be no State trials, and the matter could be treated as a purely canonical crime to be dealt with in secret in the Church courts. Pope Pius XII continued the decree. Pope John XXIII reissued it in 1962. Pope Paul VI in 1974 extended the reach of ‘pontifical secrecy’ to the allegation itself. Pope John Paul II confirmed the application of pontifical secrecy in 2001, and in 2010, Benedict XVI even extended it to allegations about priests sexually abusing intellectually disabled adults. In 2010, Pope Benedict gave a dispensation to pontifical secrecy to allow reporting to the police where the local civil law required it, that is, just enough to keep bishops out of jail. Most countries in the world do not have any such reporting laws for the vast majority of complaints about the sexual abuse of children. Pontifical secrecy, the cornerstone of the cover up continues. The effect on the lives of children by the imposition of the Church’s Top Secret classification on clergy sex abuse allegations may not have been so bad if canon law had a decent disciplinary system to dismiss these priests. The 1983 Code of Canon Law imposed a five year limitation period which virtually ensured there would be no canonical trials. It required bishops to try to reform these priests before putting them on trial. When they were on trial, the priest could plead the Vatican ‘Catch 22’ defence—he should not be dismissed because he couldn’t control himself. The Church claims that all of this has changed. Very little has changed. It has fiddled around the edges of pontifical secrecy and the disciplinary canons. The Church has been moonwalking.

    eISBN: 978-1-921511-48-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. 1 Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xi)
  4. 2 Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Sometimes you have to read a news report a second time to make sure you have read it correctly. That happened to me on 20 March 2010. No, it wasn’t about another natural disaster or a terrorist bomb. It was a letter, thePastoral Letterof Pope Benedict XVI to the people of Ireland, his response to the findings of the Murphy Commission about the cover up of clergy sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

    As the new millennium was starting, the Irish Government had established a number of Commissions of Investigation, following continuous allegations of cover up of...

  5. 3 Chronology of Church Response to Clergy Sexual Abuse of Children
    (pp. 9-48)
  6. 4 Potiphar’s Wife
    (pp. 49-60)

    In the Book of Genesis, Joseph (of the technicolour dream coat) was taken to Egypt, and sold as a slave to Potiphar, the Captain of the Guard at the Pharaoh’s palace. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, but Joseph declined the invitation. She then accused him of attempting to rape her. Potiphar had him thrown into prison.¹ And so we have the enduring myth that ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’.²

    Several thousand years later, in 2002, when the clerical abuse scandal was erupting in the United States, Catholic priests who sexually assaulted children were being prosecuted, and...

  7. 5 Sex and the Confessional
    (pp. 61-68)

    The beginning of this story does not quite go back 3,000 or more years to Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, but to 153 CE when Christianity started to spread, and the Church had its first experience of the sexual abuse of children within its ranks. The first century handbook for Christians, theDidache, has an explicit prohibition on adult men having sex with boys.¹ The Church’s concern about sexual abuse by clergy also had an early history. The first Church law against the abuse of boys was passed at the Council of Elvira in 306 CE.²

    In about 312 CE, the...

  8. 6 The Murder in the Cathedral
    (pp. 69-75)

    On 29 December 1170, four armed knights from the Court of King Henry II of England entered Canterbury Cathedral. They had previously heard the King complain about the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas a’Becket, who had long been in dispute with Henry over the power of Church and state, ‘Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?’ Henry is reported to have said.¹ Four knights of his court took the hint, and went to Canterbury Cathedral with their swords and armour. At first they hid them in the grounds of the cathedral, and were ushered into the archbishop’s private chambers....

  9. 7 Canon Law
    (pp. 77-90)

    Canon law is the body of law and regulations adopted by Catholic Church authorities for governing the Church itself and its members.¹ Prior to the promulgation of the firstCode of Canon Lawin 1917, canon law was in all sorts of decrees from popes and councils of the Church, requiring the refined skills of a solver of jigsaw puzzles to find an answer to a problem.² In 1904, Pope Pius X set up the first Commission that took thirteen years to pull it all together into a single code of canon law.

    The whole point of a code of...

  10. 8 The Canonical System of Trials
    (pp. 91-93)

    Canon law is based on Roman law, and therefore its trial method is the European continental inquisitorial system, rather than the common law adversarial one.

    In the common law system, investigations take place outside the court system, through police, public prosecutors or district attorneys. Charges are then laid, and the matter goes to trial where the judge or judge and jury listen to the evidence presented by both sides. The court then makes a decision. The ‘trial’ only starts once the investigation by the prosecution and defence has been completed. The judge in the common law system is more like...

  11. 9 Canon Law on Clergy Sexual Abuse of Children
    (pp. 95-126)

    At least since the time of Pope Innocent III in 1198, the cleric found guilty of the sexual abuse of children, homosexuality or bestiality was first to be dismissed from the priesthood, and he was to be handed over to the civil authorities to be dealt with according to the civil law.

    The canonical term for dismissing a priest is ‘laicisation’, but that term can also cover the situation where a priest who wants to get married applies to be ‘laicised’ so as to be released from his obligations of celibacy. The word ‘defrocking’ is more often associated with the...

  12. 10 The Secrecy Provision of Canon Law
    (pp. 127-140)

    The ‘secret of the Holy Office’ underCrimen Sollicitationisapplied to canonical investigations and trials against clerics for the matters set out inCrimen Sollicitationis: soliciting sex in the confessional, homosexuality, bestiality and sex assaults on children. The breach of this secrecy incurred automatic excommunication that could only be lifted by the pope personally.

    The ‘strictest confidentiality’ was imposed at the start of the investigation into an allegation of a cleric sexually assaulting a child.¹ Before he started an investigation, the bishop, theoretically, was free to go to the civil authorities to report allegations against a priest.² That all changed...

  13. 11 Misprision of Felony
    (pp. 141-148)

    The word ‘felony’ is an old English word that means a serious crime that generally required a jury trial. It contrasted with a ‘misdemeanour’, a minor crime normally dealt with by Justices of the Peace or Magistrates. They were archaic distinctions that tended to cause procedural problems.

    InSykes v The Director of Public Prosecutions¹, Lord Denning, one of judges in the House of Lords that heard the case, said that the crime of ‘misprision of felony’ had been part of the common law of ‘700 years or more’.² The elements of the crime were ‘knowledge’ of a felony (a...

  14. 12 Mandatory Welfare Reporting
    (pp. 149-153)

    The John Jay Study of 2004, commissioned by the American Catholic Bishops Conference, stated that virtually every published empirical study shows that victims delay reporting sexual abuse, and do so many years after it occurred.¹

    TheCloyne Reportexamined forty complaints of sexual abuse. Only two of them involved children at risk, and thirty-eight were cases of historic abuse.² The Commissioner forThe Melbourne Responsestated to theVictorian Parliamentary Inquirythat he investigated 304 complaints of sexual abuse, and only two involved victims who were still children at the time.³ If those figures apply generally that represents less than...

  15. 13 Law and Culture
    (pp. 155-183)

    Before dealing with the practical effects of the policy of secrecy, and how senior members of the hierarchy dealt with the conflicts between canon and civil law, we should look at the interplay of law and culture, because they are inextricably linked. Law is part of culture and it cannot be divorced from it.¹

    Laws will reflect the culture in which they are made. But, in addition to that, they will reinforce that culture once made. Law shapes culture as much as culture shapes law. It is a two way interactive process, with both influencing each other.²

    The Church is...

  16. 14 The Ineffectiveness of the Church Processes
    (pp. 185-205)

    The de facto privilege of clergy from civil prosecution that the secrecy provisions of canon law created may not have been so disastrous if the Church’s own tribunals were equipped to deal adequately with the problem of clergy sexual abusers. But they were not, because of the terms ofCrimen Sollicitationisand the 1983Code of Canon Law.

    Once a bishop received a complaint of sexual abuse by a priest, he was required by canon law to undertake a preliminary investigation. This was the requirement both ofCrimen Sollicitationisand the 1983Code of Canon Law. The language of both...

  17. 15 The Practical Application of Canon Law
    (pp. 207-227)

    The preceding chapters have dealt with both canon and civil law so far as it dealt with the sexual abuse of children, and the clash between the two legal systems, the so-called ‘parallel’ systems that were never parallel. Then we dealt with the clerical culture of secrecy and the avoidance of scandal that shaped canon law, and finally how ineffectual the canonical procedures were. This chapter provides a sample of cases that reveals the practical application of the principles of canon law and the culture that it both reflected and reinforced.

    The consistent pattern of how canon law operated is...

  18. 16 The Cardinals Defend the Privilege of Clergy
    (pp. 229-240)

    In English law, as we have seen, privilege or benefit of clergy (Privilegium clericale) was originally an agreement between the Church and the secular authority by which clergy would not be prosecuted for crimes before the state courts, and would only be tried in ecclesiastical courts in accordance with canon law.

    The effect of the secrecy provisions of canon law was to create a de facto privilege of clergy for those accused of sex crimes against children, because if the state did not know about such crimes, then it had no evidence on which it could prosecute. The Church would...

  19. 17 Bishop’s Conferences: Sexual Abuse Protocols and the Vatican
    (pp. 241-276)

    In the 1980s, the Australian bishops were faced with the problem that the canonical disciplinary system was ‘unworkable’ for dealing with priests who sexually assaulted children.¹ In 1988, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference set up a ‘Special Issues Committee’ to establish a protocol where allegations of a criminal nature were made against priests and religious. In 1990, they came up with a protocol that, among other things, required bishops and religious superiors to abide by any laws relating to compulsory reporting. Cardinal George Pell said at theVictorian Parliamentary Inquirythat the ‘Special Issues Committee’ was set up by the...

  20. 18 The Defence of the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI
    (pp. 277-287)

    In 2005, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger who was in charge of administeringCrimen Sollicitationisfrom 1981 to 1983, and was responsible for drawing up the 2001Motu Proprio, was elected Pope, and became Benedict XVI. Not long after his election, allegations started to appear in the media, such as the BBC Panorama Program,Sex Crimes and the Vaticanof 1 October 2006, that Benedict was directly involved in the cover up of clergy sexual abuse through his position as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. A major campaign started to defend the Pope, the Vatican and canon...

  21. 19 Benedict’s Pastoral Letter: Blame the Bishops
    (pp. 289-298)

    Pope John Paul II died on 2 April 2005, and on 19 April 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope and took the name, Benedict XVI. The allegations against him personally for his role in the cover up started to intensify, and the Vatican spokesmen had their time cut out for them with all the revelations from Ireland. The new Vatican cover up policy—on the role of canon law and the popes—had already started with responses to programs like theBBC Panorama Programof 2006. But that was just a television program. Now they had to deal with the...

  22. 20 The Cloyne Report In Ireland
    (pp. 299-305)

    TheCloyne Reportof 13 July 2011 arose from an investigation by the Murphy Commission of clergy sexual abuse and its concealment in the diocese of Cloyne.¹ The publication of the report resulted in an unprecedented breach between the Irish Republic and the Vatican.

    TheCloyne Reportfound that Bishop John Magee, formerly a private secretary to three popes, had misled a previous inquiry and his own advisors by creating two different accounts of a meeting with a priest suspected of abusing a child, one for the Vatican and the other for diocesan files. He advised his staff that statements...

  23. 21 Some Theological Problems With Facing The Truth
    (pp. 307-312)

    Pope Benedict XVI had an excellent opportunity with hisPastoral Letterto the people of Ireland to come clean, acknowledge that the whole policy of secrecy from 1922 onwards was a disaster, and that the Church’s own attempts to deal with its clergy sexual abusers through the use of its Church procedures were hopelessly ineffective, causing many more children to be abused than would otherwise have occurred. But he made no apology for the state of canon law, the buck for which stops at the popes.

    Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, apologised for some of the Church’s sins of...

  24. 22 The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child Report
    (pp. 313-316)

    On 16 January 2014 Bishop Scicluna, the former Vatican Chief Prosecutor gave evidence before the United Nations Committee for the Rights of the Child on behalf of the Vatican, and said,

    It is not the policy of the Holy See to encourage coverups. Only the truth will help us move on to a situation where we can start being an example of best practice.¹

    Scicluna was asked by Committee members why Church policy did not provide that in ‘all cases these crimes should be reported’, and not just where there were reporting laws. His answer was that every local Church...

  25. 23 The Australian Royal Commission
    (pp. 317-332)

    On 12 November 2012, the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announced the setting up of aRoyal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuseinvolving all Churches and institutions that had the care of children. On 11 January 2013, she announced the Commission’s terms of reference.¹ In broad terms, the Commission is to inquire into the appropriate responses of institutions, with the need to focus on systemic issues, and to make recommendations for changes to laws, policies and systems for the better protection of children from sexual abuse. The Commission started its hearings on 16 September 2013.

    On 12...

  26. 24 A Greek Tragedy: Not Facing The Truth
    (pp. 333-352)

    In October 2012, after the publication of figures showing some forty suicides of clergy sexual abuse victims, the Victorian Parliament started its inquiry.¹ The four Victorian Catholic dioceses, Melbourne, Ballarat Sale and Sandhurst, and religious orders operating within the state put in a submission. Its title,Facing the Truth,starts off with a quote from the highly respected nineteenth century English Cardinal, John Henry Newman, recently beatified by the Church.

    Let us take things as we find them: let us not attempt to distort them into what they are not. We cannot make facts. All our wishing cannot change them....

  27. Index of Subject
    (pp. 353-358)
  28. Index of Names
    (pp. 359-362)
  29. Back Matter
    (pp. 363-363)