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Crimes Of Omission

I see a crime and a sin as two starkly different things.  A sin is a matter of conscience.  I shouldn’t be having those thoughts about my wife’s new best friend or I shouldn’t have cheated on my final exam.  Yes if I got caught there would’ve been hell to pay.  The wife would probably get a new diamond necklace or I would’ve been expelled from school or automatically flunk the class.  But there are ways to fix things that doesn’t really impact our ability to recover and keep on with our lives.   These violations are more of a failure of ethics or morality.

On the other hand, a crime is a violation of law and some government agency will probably get involved in order to set things straight.  A crime might include a fine or some jail time or both for the perpetrator.  But make no mistake, if a crime is proven to have been committed without any mitigating circumstances to justify the act, or a good pricey lawyer to come to the perp’s defense, somebody’s going to pay.

Recently there’s been a lot of discussion regarding the pedophiles that have become all but synonymous with the Catholic Church.  The public press has been pretty harsh against Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican.  There have been a number of high profile accusations concerning the sexual abuse of children perpetrated by priests in Wisconsin, Germany, and Ireland.  All the stories make the suggestion that the church leadership has been criminally negligent in handling the many charges of abuse brought to its attention.  There has even been some accusation that the Vatican has been an accomplice in covering up crucial details in some of the cases.

The New York Times reported that from 1950 to 1974, Reverend Lawrence Murphy worked as a counselor at an acclaimed school for deaf children in Wisconsin, where he molested at least two hundred boys.  Church bishops alerted the Vatican that Mr. Murphy had been accused of molesting children at the school, though his behavior was never brought to the attention of local law enforcement.  Instead of allowing the investigation to come to its natural conclusion and allowing Mr. Murphy to face potential criminal prosecution, he was quietly transferred to another parish.

From 1981 to 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was later elected to become Pope Benedict XVI, headed the Vatican department responsible for investigating and acting on such allegations, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  When the bishops in Wisconsin finally initiated disciplinary action against Mr. Murphy, the accused priest wrote a letter of protest to Cardinal Ratzinger citing his failing health and his earlier repentance for his actions.  Shortly after Cardinal Ratzinger received the letter, the trial was halted by one of his subordinates.  Mr. Murphy died in 1998 as a fully decorated priest.

In response to this accusation and similar ones from Europe and the United Kingdom, the Vatican has gone on the attack accusing the media of an attempt to smear the Catholic Church.  The fact that there is a paper trail that implicates Cardinal Ratzinger and the Vatican in a cover up of monumental proportions within the church is inconsequential.  The real crime is the smear campaign from people who simply refuse to let all the dust flying around this story settle down and eventually die.

Like many fraternal organizations, priests are sworn to secrecy.  And so any investigation by government authorities is seriously compromised by the mentality of the church authorities who want to take care of the matter quietly on their own.  Breaking the priestly code of silence that prevents a more open discussion of the implications surrounding these scandals is a critical first step to breaking the far deeper conspiracy of silence that permitted these heinous acts and their subsequent cover up to happen in the first place.

To add insult to injury, some people actually feel, or at least at one time felt, that priests were above reproach simply because of their occupation.  No priest would ever abuse anyone.  You couldn’t possibly get the job if your character was that immoral.  We simply trusted the church to do the job of policing their own.  To some, the whole affair is something for the church to handle.  We view these acts as if they were nothing more than sins easily rectified with a rote recital of a rosary or something similarly trite.

But these aren’t sins.  What we are talking about are crimes.  And when we take into consideration that these were crimes against children, you damn skippy the law needs to get involved.  If a priest is accused of assaulting someone then that priest may have committed a crime.  And if a crime has been committed then there’s a chance that there were accomplices to that crime.  No where else would we be willing to make the sin of leaving an accomplice to the crime determine the punishment of the main perpetrator of the crime.

Monday, March 29, 2010 - Posted by | Faith, Life, Religion, Spirituality, Thoughts

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