Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Did the Catholic Church try to interfere in the course of justice?

I was angry to read allegations that the Pope interfered in a clergy sex abuse case in Australia.  They're not (yet) independently verified, but given my experience of such shenanigans (of which more later), they ring true.

A low-ranking parish priest who agreed to give evidence against an archbishop accused of concealing child sexual abuse was mysteriously summoned to the Vatican before he was due to testify and allegedly quizzed by the Pope about what he was planning to say in court.

. . .

The explosive claim about the papal meeting, contained in The Altar Boys, indicates that the pressure brought to bear on priests who betray the brotherhood extends right up to the Vatican, and has prompted calls for a police investigation.

Father Walsh was a Crown witness in the case against Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson when he met with the pontiff on February 9, 2016. Archbishop Wilson was accused of failing to report to police the allegations of two former altar boys who claimed they had been abused by a priest in the Newcastle-Maitland diocese in the 1970s. At the time he was the highest-ranking Catholic ever to be charged with concealment offences.

Father Walsh later told confidants that the Pope asked him why he was involved in a court case against an archbishop, what he was planning to say in court, and who was walking with him on the journey. Father Walsh said he did not trust the interpreter and offered scant detail.

It was the pinnacle of what Father Walsh perceived as a sustained campaign by the priesthood to get him to toe the line on child sexual abuse. He was allegedly frozen out of the Maitland-Newcastle diocese after he defied the bishop to report a fellow priest for child sexual abuse in 2004 and was not welcomed back until early 2017.

But on October 24, 2017 – a little over two weeks before the archbishop's trial was set down – Newcastle-Maitland Bishop Bill Wright told Father Walsh he had no future in the diocese, according to an email Father Walsh sent to a friend. The email didn't say that this decision was because of his giving evidence.

"[Bishop Wright] will look overseas (Third World) where I can live out my days in the service to Christ and his poor, preferably as a contemplative to a leper colony," Father Walsh wrote.

Two weeks later, before he could give evidence, Father Walsh took his own life.

There's more at the link.

As regular readers will know, I left the Catholic priesthood over precisely this sort of misconduct and cover-up.  I've given details in previous articles, particularly this one.  I therefore can't claim an unbiased opinion on the matter - I've seen too much of this sort of thing from the inside to be neutral.

The key point to me in the above report is that Father Walsh committed suicide.  You need to understand that in Catholic teaching, suicide was traditionally considered a mortal sin - something that sunders one from God not only in this life, but potentially eternally, if it were/is not repented and forgiven.  That's been modified to some extent (I think correctly) in the light of what we've learned about the human mind.  We now understand that suicide is seldom fully and freely willed.  There are usually circumstances such as depression (clinical or otherwise), mental illness, and other factors that influence that last and most final of decisions.  Nevertheless, Father Walsh would probably have been raised in the belief that suicide is a mortal sin.  For him to take that step is inconceivable, unless he were under so much pressure, and/or felt so abandoned and betrayed by the Church he served, that he felt he had no other way forward.

I don't know the full circumstances of the situation described in the report above;  but they ring true, in the light of so many other cases around the world, and of course in our own United States.  For example, in Chile a few years ago, Pope Francis came out angrily (and publicly) in defense of one of that country's bishops, only to have to eat his words within a few months when a subsequent investigation proved that the allegations against that bishop were entirely correct.  Too often we've seen a knee-jerk reaction like that from Catholic hierarchies, national and international, defending their church and their own positions and authority against the indefensible.  It seems nothing has changed - and perhaps it never will.  Perhaps the ecclesiastical iron has entered their souls . . . and rusted there.

The Catholic Church's dogmatic refusal to face up to the reality of this scandal has tarnished it almost beyond human redemption.  I don't know a way forward unless and until all those who were and still are complicit in the problem have been removed from office:  but they're selecting their own successors, and making sure to pick "organization men" who'll continue their policies.  Their actions demonstrate that they continue to believe more in the institution of the Church than in Jesus Christ.

Is there a solution to this mess?  Perhaps it'll take the Second Coming of Christ to properly resolve it.  Meanwhile, those of us who believed, who devoted our lives to Christ through the Church, are still left bereaved.  For us, there is no peace, and probably never will be in this life.

May Father Glen Walsh find peace at last in Christ's mercy, and may his sins be forgiven him.  God rest his soul.



Mark said...

You and I exchanged emails a few months ago regarding my (now completed) conversion from Episcopalian to Catholic, and my misgivings because of this issue.

I personally believe the Church is heading for a new Reformation, not of the Luther/Calvin variety but of the St Francis variety. Until that time it's our Calling as Christians to tend to our corner of the world as best we can. The Church changes slowly (as it ought to), it didn't get to this point in a generation or two, and it won't get back to the proper path in a generation or two.

Tom said...

The Catholic Church's reaction to sexual abuse by members of its hierarchy demonstrates that the Iron Law of Bureaucracy applies to EVERY organization.

Ann K. said...

Please consider becoming Eastern Orthodox!

milton f said...

Random thought from a sinner that will never leave the Catholic Church:

I have read that sodomite priests target real priests, confess to them about their sodomy, and expect that the real priest will maintain their little secret. Frequently the real priest becomes a victim of the sodomists.

The goal of the sodomist is to crush the spirit of the victim; to destroy them.

In the strictest sense it is a sin to kill oneself. But if, nah when, under assault it would seem to make more sense to take out as many of the known sodomists, who WERE AGGRESSING UPON one of God's shepherds. Praying for forgiveness the whole time, knowing that there may be time in prison to continue to repent.

What would the chivalrous Knights Templar have done?

Coffee Man said...

I am a non-practicing Catholic for numerous reasons. But I still have the belief system I was raised with and will forever.
For what it is worth, I hop that Father Glen Walsh has found the peace that he so desperately searched for....and may those that threatened him or sought to influence him find the fires of hell around them in the after life.

tweell said...

How sure are we that Father Walsh committed suicide? If this was important enough for Pope Francis to 'counsel' Walsh, it's important enough to Arkancide him.

Andrew Smith said...

Peter, I wouldn't take the writings of the book's author as gospel. There had been a "get Pell" vendetta in Australia that almost succeeded. The author of the book is a journalist for the ABC, who are openly disdained by a chunk of the population for their abject bias in reporting. I'm really not buying what I read there at the linked article.

Peter said...

@Andrew Smith: Yes, the source may be biased: but as I said in the article, it rings true in comparison with a great many other cases that are known to be authentic. I'm therefore inclined to believe that something of the sort really happened, even if not all the details are correct. Balance of probabilities, and all that sort of thing.

MrGarabaldi said...

Hey Peter;

I was raised Catholic and am now Methodist because the Spousal is Southern Baptist so it is a compromise. Even now I have issues with certain stances of the Church and the communist Pope whom sits at the head of the Church whom John Paul II and Ronald Reagan Helped take down communism is an embarrassment.
When I read that Father Walsh committed suicide, I was stunned, for that was considered a mortal sin from my teaching when I was growing up and you touched up on that. To lose all hope to such a degree to even consider it was telling. I Remember all the Priests and the nuns growing up and they all were a credit to the Catholic Church and to the Faith. I hope God Grants Father Walsh the peace that he so was looking for in life from the terrible burden that he was carrying.

John T. Block said...

Satan finds many willing hands, even in the Preisthood. It strikes me that killing such who stain the Faith and injure the innocent would be seen by God as a Righteous act....and may well be worth a prison term. Saving future victims from a life of mental anguish, when Church and Law fail to do so, is a goal....

Unknown said...

Not nearly certain enough.
Nor would he be the first person to oppose the Vatican "deep state" to have met a suspicious end. (If conspiracy theorists are you be believed, the list includes at least one Pope.)
But does any believer truly want to accept that an institution dedicated to God could become so corrupted?

Wraith said...

@Unknown: The Pharisees started out from a deep, abiding desire to know and serve God. Look how that turned out.

Paul, Dammit! said...

I can only hope that Frank The Pimp and his leftist followers lead to a great schism. Awful to say, worse to think, but I'd like to see them go have their 'church' somewhere between unitarianism and UNICEF.

I keep hoping cardinal Sarah will get elevated to go into the vatican with a sharp knife and a clean conscience. There are still good leaders in the Catholic church, but the cancer has to go for them to come forward.