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Meditation 874
Not the Vatican's Finest Week

by: JT

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Really, the past week has not shown the Vatican in its best light.

Pope Benedict XVI announced that he had approved the first miracle performed the late Pope John Paul II, and in record time too. He apparently cured a nun of Parkinson's disease. Now he can be beatified, and he is only one more miracle short of sainthood. The trouble is that outside of the Vatican's coterie of pet physicians, the validity of this miracle is questioned. Rather, it is more probable that the initial diagnosis of Parkinson's was in error. It sounds like the rush to saint the man is leading to sloppy investigation. I'd even say dishonest investigations.

I suggest Benedict wants to get JPII's sainthood approved before all the dirt comes out. But it's getting a little late for that.

A 1997 letter was widely published earlier this week which revealed that the Vatican had ruled back then against a plan submitted by Irish Bishops to involve civil authorities in sex abuse investigations. Telling the police would be contrary to Church policy. This letter gives the lie to the claim that the world-wide cover-up of child abuse was not Vatican policy. And the soon-to-be-sainted JP II was the one in charge in 1997. More dishonesty!

Later in the week, a 1984 letter from the Vatican to the Bishop of Tucson came to light forbidding that any information at all from any priest's files be released to civil authorities. Justification was freedom of religion and the fact that some priests might be frightened and upset. While this particular case apparently did not involve child-abuse, but other matters, it is clear the direction was specifically intended to apply to all circumstances. ("under no condition whatever ought the afore-mentioned files be surrendered to any lawyer or judge whatsoever.") Again, clear Vatican direction to cover up. And the soon-to-be-sainted JP II was also the one in charge in back 1984. Even more dishonesty. The documented Vatican cover-up of priestly crimes goes back to the early days of John Paul II's papacy. And I have little doubt that there are letters buried in Vatican files showing similar policy existed under earlier Popes.

Interestingly, on Wednesday this week the California Supreme Court, by declining to review a lower court ruling, let stand a legal decision in direct opposition to this Vatican policy of refusing access to files of clerics. The files of nine Franciscan friars accused of child molestation are to be unsealed. It does not look like the Court is worried about the Vatican's concerns that these particular friars might be worried and upset. A clear loss for the Vatican. A victory for their victims.

Now the the Vatican has announced that it is "troubled" by the sex allegations against Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi. According to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone:

The Church urges and invites everyone, especially those who hold a position of public responsibility [...] to commit themselves to a more robust morality, a sense of justice and legality.

Not to defend Berlusconi by any means[1], but is the Vatican really in any position to lecture on anyone's sexual morality? Until they clean their own house and apply Cardinal Bertone's advice to themselves, they have no moral authority to lecture others. Yet they pretend they do.

And this week once again, the Vatican failed to deliver its promised new policy on how Bishops should handle accusations of sex abuse by its clergy.

Not the Vatican's finest week. Is it ever?



  1. Berlusconi's most recent legal problem is whether or not he paid a 16 year old girl for consensual sex. The age of consent in Italy is 14, but payment for sex is not permitted under 18.