Vatican papers spark debate
Clergy abuse protocol noted
By Kathleen A. Shaw TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
Augsut 28, 2005
WORCESTER The 1962 Vatican document called Crimen Sollicitationis
that first surfaced in Worcester two years ago has made its way
around the world, causing controversy and sparking debate on whether
the Roman Catholic hierarchy intended this document as a plan to
hush up sexual abuse of children.
The name is taken from the first words of the original Latin version,
which mean crime of solicitation. It outlines procedures
to be followed when a priest is accused of sexual abuse. Houston
lawyer Daniel J. Shea said the document is relevant because it shows
that the church hierarchy has conspired to keep quiet child abuse.
Reading through the Crimen protocol for handling abuse cases, Mr.
Shea said, it is evident that the intent is to absolve the offending
priest and send him on what the document calls a pious pilgrimage
but what he called a vacation, and to shut up the complainant.
He and other civil lawyers in this country are also introducing
the document into lawsuits in an attempt to show that an international
conspiracy is involved in covering up abuse by priests.
He went to the gates of the Vatican two weeks ago to press his
argument that Pope Benedict XVI has actively conspired to keep cases
of clergy sexual abuse under wraps. He bases his claim on the Crimen
document and a letter that the pope wrote in 2001, when he was Cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger, instructing church officials on how to handle
these cases. Crimen was footnoted in the 2001 document.
Crimen Sollicitationis has also shown up in Louisville, Ky., where
the Vatican has been named in a lawsuit filed by men alleging clergy
Mr. Shea, who also practices in Massachusetts, settled several
sexual abuse cases in Worcester Superior Court, but has named the
pope in a lawsuit he is handling for three men in the Houston area
who said they were sexually abused by a priest there who later fled
back to his native Latin America.
Crimen was introduced into a court suit in Springfield brought
by Jane Martin, who said she was sexually abused as a child by the
Rev. Robert E. Kelley, a priest of the Worcester Diocese. The judge
did not allow introduction of the document because it had not been
authenticated and was not seen as being relevant.
Mr. Sheas campaign has attracted public notice. Articles
about his quest have appeared in newspapers in Britain, Ireland,
Italy and the United States.
The Rev. Thomas Doyle, the canon lawyer who first called attention
to the burgeoning sexual abuse scandal in the church in the mid-1980s,
said he understands that an even earlier document dealt with how
to handle clergy sexual abuse issues, but he has been unable to
find the entire document. Dated June 8, 1922, it is written in Latin
and called De modo procedendi in causis sollicitationis.
Rev. Doyle does not agree with Mr. Shea that the 2001 memo implicates
the pope in obstruction of justice. The memo was intended to be
an internal church document and no one at the Vatican at the time
was thinking in terms of obstructing justice. He does not believe
that Crimen Sollicitationis was an intentional act by the church
hierarchy to cover up abuse but said it shows a 1960s mindset
of the hierarchy, which intended these things to be kept confidential.
The document, which was marked confidential, was drawn
up by Cardinal Alfred Ottaviani and approved by Pope John XXIII.
Rev. Doyle said the pope may not have read the document presented
to him for approval by the cardinal, but he would have known of
its existence. According to the preamble to Crimen, it was to be
diligently stored in the secret archives of the Curia as strictly
Rev. Doyle, as a canon lawyer, worked at the Vatican embassy in
Washington, D.C., during the 1980s and a lot of church documents
involving allegations of clerical sexual abuse crossed his desk.
This is where he got his first inklings of the scope of the problem,
which until recently remained largely hidden. He has also served
as an expert witness in civil lawsuits involving allegations of
sexual abuse by priests and has seen even more documents.
He said that although Crimen does not appear to be operational
in all Catholic dioceses, he has seen documents that show it was
used in some of them.
He believes the American bishops, none of whom would have been
involved in the writing of Crimen Sollicitationis, from the mid-20th
century onward turned their energies to sending offending priests
to treatment places. The first such retreat was operated by the
Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico, he said. In the late 1940s
and 1950s, the founder of that order was warning bishops that none
of the priests sent to the Paracletes should be in active
ministry, he said. The bishops did not heed that warning,
The House of Affirmation in Whitinsville, which was opened in the
1970s, received a number of offending priests, but experts in the
treatment field had told Rev. Doyle that they did not believe the
House of Affirmation was equipped professionally to treat sexually
abusive priests. But bishops continued to send priests to
the House of Affirmation, he said. The House of Affirmation
closed in the late 1980s amid a financial scandal.
Rev. Doyle said Catholics in general understand that the hierarchy
needs to take a good look at how they operate if there is to be
an end to clerical sexual abuse. He said he was recently involved
in a court case in which a bishop, whom he declined to name, did
not tell the truth about destruction by his diocese of subpoenaed
documents, although the bishop had knowledge that his predecessor
had the documents destroyed. He violated a court order and
he violated an oath, Rev. Doyle said.
Bishops react as organizations react, he said. They come
to see their needs as the needs of the institution, he said.
Rev. Doyle added that the church will not come to grips with the
sexual abuse problem unless it takes a look at its own views on
sexuality. Rev. Doyle said he has seen files on many abusive priests
and was struck by how sexually immature they were. In seminary,
you did not talk about sex. It was a sin, he said.
Rev. Doyle added that the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children
and Young People, which was approved by the American bishops, is
not the panacea that many hope it is. I have a lot of issues
with the charter, he said. For one thing, he said, he does
not believe the church can self-audit compliance with
the charter. The language of the charter is so broad that abuse
can be construed in many different ways.
Other people interviewed recently had a variety of views on the
documents and what needs to be done to deal with the clergy sexual
Gerald Renner of Connecticut, a retired religion writer for the
Hartford Courant who with Jason Berry wrote Vows of Silence,
has investigated the allegations that Marcial Maciel Degollado,
founder of the Legion of Christ, had sexually molested boys and
that the Vatican hushed it up.
Mr. Renner said he believes the resurrection of Crimen
after more than 40 years is not a blueprint for a cover-up
regardless of what Mr. Shea or others say. He said it is an
internal church document that applies to ecclesiastical law,
not to the broader civil law in the U.S. or anywhere else. It is
a straw which civil lawyers have grasped to open the Vatican to
liability for the cover-up.
Timothy P. Staney, a former Worcester resident who now lives in
the Tampa, Fla., area, has made the Crimen available to anyone who
want to download it from the Internet. He got a copy of the document,
which is more than 30 pages long, and put it on his Web site. It
got 800 hits the first week and the document then began to appear
on other sites. A Google search shows the file, criminales.pdf,
showing up in more than 90 sites. References to Crimen show up in
more than 650 places on the Web and articles about it appear in
a number of different languages, showing a worldwide reach.
Crimen deals with how the hierarchy should act if a priest is turned
in for sexual abuse. The answer is, It never happened,
Mr. Staney said.
Mr. Staney, who settled a lawsuit alleging he was sexually abused
by the Rev. Jean-Paul Gagnon and Raymond Tremblay, a former religious
education teacher, said he believes it is unimportant whether Catholics
view the document as irrelevant or an urgent directive of protocol.
It is indisputable that this document was released to the
highest ranks of the church under the secret of the Holy Office
with draconian security instructions and was never meant to fall
into the hands of lay people, moreover the media, he said.
Mr. Staney sees Crimen as a smoking gun of a cover-up
and noted the language of the document is concisely sexual.
While some argue the document refers only to sexual abuse involving
the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Mr. Staney questions why it makes
reference to sexual acts involving brute animals.
They were obviously concerned about something more than sacramental
protocol, he said.
Daniel E. Dick, victim support coordinator for Worcester Voice
of the Faithful, said he believes Crimen was used by the bishops
and those above them in rank to avoid having to face
their role in the whole, awful mess of sexual abuse by any
and all church personnel.
The release of Crimen Sollicitationis in 1962 was originally
limited to cover only improper advances a confessor might make to
a young male in the confessional. Supposedly, according to its canon
lawyer defenders, the intent of Crimen Sollicitationis was later
expanded to convey the churchs recognition that the abuse
of another person by a member of the clerical caste was also a crime.
This covers (religious) such as deacons, brothers and sisters in
religious orders, seminarians, priests, bishops and archbishops,
cardinals, and popes who have been guilty of sexually soliciting
and abusing another person, Mr. Dick said.
The document does not cover those who aid and abet in the
crime of obstructing justice, he said. A person who knowingly
puts a child molester in a position to abuse more children is
also aiding and abetting a crime, Mr. Dick said.
The most notorious example of such an exclusion is the horrific
record of Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston who did knowingly and habitually
shield and transfer many, many pedophile clergy and religious from
one post to another where they could continue their criminal ways.
His case was considerably compounded by the actions of both Pope
John Paul II and then Cardinal Ratzinger who had Law whisked away
to Rome where they ensconced him in a cushy pastorate of a wealthy
church there. Then, after being elected pope, Rev. Ratzinger had
the further gall to invite Law to say the Mass of mourning for the
late John Paul II, Mr. Dick said.
Pauline Salvucci of Maine, a former religious sister who now advocates
for church reform and accountability through Voices of Outrage,
said the document may be controversial but she would rather see
people focus their energies on bringing real reform to the Catholic
church and to begin to prosecute those of the church hierarchy who
have shielded priests.
The way to change the church wont be through this document
from Rome, but rather through a grass-roots political movement in
truth and justice, she said. She sees the goals as changing
the statutes of limitations to hold priests and bishops accountable
for sexual abuse, holding Congressional hearings into diocesan cover-ups
that have been documented around the country, removing the non-profit
status of churches and dioceses that refuse to cooperate with investigations
and having a federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations
Act) investigation into the cover-ups.
George Skip Shea of Uxbridge, who settled a suit alleging
abuse by Rev. Thomas H. Teczar, said it is hard to believe
there was not an active conspiracy with orders from Rome. He referred
to a recent suit against the Fort Worth, Texas, and Worcester dioceses
by two men who said they were abused by Rev. Teczar, who migrated
to Texas from Worcester. It was evident in the letters between
Worcester and Fort Worth, where (the late) Bishop (Joseph Patrick)
Delaney assumed all legal and financial responsibility for Father
Teczar if he was to be sent there. He knew the risks. He jeopardized
the safety of those children, he said. Clearly, the
results of the recent lawsuits have proven that. Yet publicly he
George Shea said that Cardinal Law knowingly moved abusive priests
while publicly denying it. Mr. Shea, who is not related
to the Houston lawyer, said, The fact that two leaders of
the church, 2,000 miles apart, exhibiting the same behavior and
responses to the crisis, leads one to believe they are taking the
The Rev. Bruce Teague, a College of the Holy Cross graduate who
is a priest of the Springfield Diocese, said bishops attempted to
avoid scandal, particularly at the local level, and did not need
Crimen to do it. Most American bishops, unless they were canon
lawyers, would not understand Crimen. It would have had to be interpreted
to them by their chief canon lawyers, he said.
Rev. Teague said bishops did not view sexual abuse of minors as
a criminal issue but thought it was best handled by sending the
priest to treatment. Their behaviors were similar to Nixon
in Watergate and Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky case. Their efforts
and their diagnosis proved to be disastrous and destructive to victims
and the church, he said.
Canon law dealt with the issue of abusive priests, but American
bishops did not even follow church law, Rev. Teague said. He said
bishops still fail to hold themselves accountable for the harm they
caused. Unlike, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the
Dallas norms fail to hold bishops accountable themselves,