Saturday, April 03, 2010

Where there's smoke. . . .

Sometimes, Satan catches a break.

Sometimes, he doesn't.

Now, if you're ensconced somewhere deep in the bureaucracy of the Catholic Church, there are procedures for deciding when the devil gets his due process. The procedures, it would seem, go something like this:

If you're in the media, and Vatican functionaries determine that your "biased reporting" is the handiwork of the Evil One, the church can move amazingly swiftly for a 2,000-year-old bureaucracy.

First, the Vatican newspaper launches a propaganda campaign against the printer's devil.

Then bishops get into the act, calling for the faithful to "besiege"
The New York Times and cancel their subscriptions to The Oregonian in Portland. In the case of the Times, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said he would "suggest canceling our subscriptions . . . but we need to know what the enemy is saying."

And then, we have the Vatican's chief exorcist contending that the press isn't just "the enemy" but is taking its marching orders from The Enemy. Which, of course, has led to a persecution of the Catholic Church --
at least according to the papal preacher -- not unlike that of the Jews.

ON THE OTHER HAND, if you're a priest who's molested kids, and if a local Catholic Church canonical court has determined you possess "almost a satanic quality," it can take years . . . and years . . . and years for the Vatican to get alarmed enough to remove the "smoke of Satan" from the sanctuary.

One case in point comes from Tucson, and the findings of the Arizona Daily Star don't exactly heap discredit upon the much-disputed reporting of Laurie Goodstein at the Times:

The late Tucson Bishop Manuel D. Moreno, often characterized as a poor advocate for sexual abuse victims, struggled with both canon law and Vatican mandates in his efforts to defrock two local priests, documents obtained by the Arizona Daily Star show.

In one case, Moreno pleaded with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, for help in removing the Rev. Michael Teta, who was convicted by the church in 1997 of five crimes including sexual solicitation in the confessional.

"I make this plea to you to assist me in every way you can to expedite this case, because the accused was a priest in whom I had great confidence at one time, but who, unfortunately, worked among our former seminarians, and, terrible to say, evidently corrupted many of them," Moreno wrote in an April 1997 letter to Ratzinger.

Ratzinger's office oversaw Teta's case because the crimes allegedly occurred in the confessional. His office did not handle the case of the other priest, Monsignor Robert C. Trupia, until 2001, when jurisdiction over such cases changed.

Teta's case, Moreno wrote, had already gone on for seven years. Teta was first suspended in 1990.

Teta and Trupia were defrocked in 2004. The diocese suspended Trupia in 1992 after a Tucson mother told the diocese her young son had been sexually abused by Trupia.

The diocese did not notify police about allegations against Trupia until 2000, when mandatory- reporting policies were adopted here.


Tucson Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas said delays in cases here were not due to any Vatican office, including Ratzinger's.

"The frustration that you can sense in (Moreno's) letter, when put in the context of the delays experienced in our diocese, clearly refers to the challenges of getting the case resolved locally and did not refer to a frustration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith," Kicanas wrote in an e-mail response to Star questions.

The church's canonical court in 1997 found "there is almost a satanic quality in (Teta's) mode of acting toward young men and boys." The court found that Teta's "insidious 'rape' of so many young men in his capacity as a priest" warranted his immediate removal from the priesthood.

"What is wrong with this system in which it takes another seven years to defrock a priest that has been found guilty of 'satanic abuse?' " Tucson lawyer Lynne Cadigan said.

Kicanas said that from 1997 to 2003, a process of review and appeals by Teta's canonical lawyer took place. "Unavoidably, criminal cases in our civil system of justice and canonical trials in the church, because of the need to respect the right to due process, can take a long time," Kicanas wrote.
DESPITE THE OFFICIAL bleating of the Vatican, various bishops, "orthodox Catholic" church militants, exorcists, papal preachers and L'Osservatore Romano, where there's smoke, there just might be hellfire -- and it's not in the press room.

The "smoke of Satan" still hangs over the church after two-and-a-half decades of sordid revelation after sordid revelation and egregious cover-up after egregious cover-up.
The mystical Body of Christ has endured decade after decade of justice denied and responsibility evaded, and it's high time for the magisterium to account for its actions -- and its inaction.

Bishops the world over have some explaining to do. And that includes the Bishop of Rome.

They can do it now, or they can do it later . . . before a much higher court than that of public opinion.

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