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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

The BBC Should Not Give In To Pressure from the RC Church to Recant on Its Panorama Programme on Child Abuse

(Programme broadcast on 1 October 2006)

It is vital that the BBC stands firm against attempts by the Catholic Church to silence its investigations into child abuse, says the National Secular Society (NSS).

NSS Executive Director Keith Porteous Wood said that the Catholic Church was trying to bully the BBC into stopping its criticism of the church’s cover-ups on child abuse.

Mr Porteous Wood said: “It’s a familiar technique that the Church is using – trying to make itself into the victim so as to deflect attention from the real victims – the children. What is noticeably absent from Archbishop Nichols selectively-worded statement is humility by the Church for the huge scale of abuse it has facilitated and in most cases covered up. He has taken the same line the Church so often does: stifle examination of the facts and any criticism of the church or church leaders, however justified.

Panorama is far from alone in blaming the extreme culture of secrecy typified by Crimen Sollicationis for allowing clerical child abuse to escape punishment by secular authorities. Similar conclusions are drawn by, for example, by the Guardian and an exhaustive examination Sex, Priests and Secret Codes by Fr. Thomas P. Doyle, O.P. Published in 2006 (extracts below).

“For Archbishop Nichols to attack the BBC for broadcasting this measured programme adds yet further insult to injury of the tens of thousands of victims of sexual abuse at the hands of RC priests. One instance of abuse would be too much but in thousands of cases Church officials other than the direct perpetrator have, representing the Church, compounded this substantially. They have facilitated further abuse by not reporting the cases to civil authorities and move abusive priests to other parishes without taking extra precautions. They have also mentally abused the victims and their families by branding them liars and have almost always refused to give any financial recompense or provide medical treatment to victims unless forced to do so by the secular authorities.

“The Church can already claim some success however. The huge pressure put on the BBC’s Today programme to desist from drawing attention to this issue in the UK and Cardinal Murphy O’Connor’s role in this area seems to have borne fruit. The Panorama programme concentrated almost exclusively on events abroad rather than the many problems in this country. In August for example “up to 140” men are suing an East Yorkshire Catholic establishment for abuse which continued for decades. Nor did it report that instead of reporting to the police allegations of abuse against Michael Hill, a priest in Murphy O’Connor’s charge when Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, Murphy O’Connor reported to have moved him to another position where he was later convicted for abusing nine children.”


Programme

Extracts:
The Guardian
(4 May 2006) Crimen Sollicationis contains strict instructions for dealing with what the Vatican calls the "worst crimes" - such as allegations of paedophilia and bestiality. Rather than report these offences to the civil authorities, the CDF instructs bishops to investigate them "in the most secretive way" or face the "penalty of excommunication".

Sex, Priests and Secret Codes

By Fr. Thomas P. Doyle, O.P. Published 2006

Cult of Systemic Secrecy

Secrecy is an unwritten, but strict, code within the clerical system, and like any other closed trade or professional group clerics tend to stand up for one another. However, the closeness of this brotherhood lends itself to creating a system with an aura of secrecy that withholds at all costs the knowledge of sexual violations by its members from the laity. This system acts as though rumors, hearsay, and even direct evidence of sexual violations by its members should be treated as though they were entitled to the confidential­ity guaranteed by the seal of confession.

This aura of secrecy is nurtured by the church. The oath that cardinals take, for instance, never to divulge anything confided to them that "might bring harm or dishonor to Holy Church" creates a template for everybody else to keep scandals under wraps.

The oath reads:

I (name) cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, promise and swear to remain, from this moment and for as long as I live, faithful to Christ and his gospel, constantly obedient to the Holy Apostolic Roman Church, to the Blessed Peter in the person of the Supreme Pontiff (name) and of his successors canoni­cally elected; to preserve always in word and deed communion with the Catholic Church; never to reveal to anyone whatsoever has been confided to me to keep secret and the revelation of which could cause damage or dishonor to the Holy Church; to carry out with great diligence and fidelity the tasks to which I am called in my service to the Church, according to the norms of law. So help me Almighty God.

When one bishop was chided by a priest for denying the existence of sexual abuse when he did, in fact, know about it, he replied: "I only lie when I have to." And as recently as May 2002, a judge of the Holy Roman Rota, the highest court in the church, wrote in a Vatican-approved article that bishops should not report sexual violations of priests to civil authorities. The reasoning: lest the image and authority of the church be compromised and victims harmed instead of protected.


Published Tue, 03 Oct 2006