Posts Tagged ‘crime’

“A Crime Against the Most Weak”

ROME, JULY 20, 2007 ( Here is the text of a pamphlet on “Pedophilia and the Priesthood” written by Monsignor Raffaello Martinelli, an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and member of the editorial commission of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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Q: How does the Church evaluate cases of pedophilia committed by priests?

These crimes of pedophilia have been labeled as “a crime against the most weak,” “a horrendous sin in the eyes of God,” a crime “that damages the Church’s credibility,” characterized as “filth” by Cardinal Ratzinger in the memorable Via Crucis on Good Friday 2005, just a few days before being elected Pope. That filth is created by “many cases of sexual abuse of minors that break one’s heart, and are particularly tragic when the one committing the abuse is a priest.” To the bishops of Ireland, Benedict XVI in October 2006 stated once more that these are crimes that “break one’s heart.”

The most severe condemnation, a source of clear and unequivocal blame, is found in the words of Jesus when, identifying himself with the little ones, affirms in the synoptic Gospels: “And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:5-6, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:1-2).

Acts of pedophilia are the responsibility of the individual who carries them out.

It has to do with individual cases: It should not be generalized. There are some 500,000 priests in the world, and the priests who have cases brought against them are a small percentage. Those that have been proven and ended with punishment are even less: Trustworthy, nonpartisan sources say the percentage is 0.3%, that is, three priests out of 1,000. It is necessary to distinguish between “delinquent” priests who have done and continue to do bad things, from the multitude of other priests who have dedicated and continue to dedicate their lives to the good of children and adolescents.

We must not forget that in some cases the victims themselves have subsequently retracted their baseless accusations.

It must also be said that even one pedophile priest is too many. He is a priest that never should have been a priest and he should be punished severely with no ifs, ands or buts.

The Church has been working for some time with its personnel (even priests, for example, in Italy Father Fortunato Di Noto, working with his association on Internet sites) and institutions to single out, unmask, condemn and overcome the phenomenon of pedophilia, from within and from without.

Unfortunately it must also be said that some bishops were mistaken when they undervalued the facts and limited themselves to moving, from one parish to another, a priest who was found guilty of pedophilia. For this reason, the Holy See decided in 2001 to claim for itself the judgment on those crimes.

Q: Which documents of the Holy See deal with the crimes of pedophilia?

The Holy See has put out two documents that deal with the crimes of pedophilia:

1. The instruction of March 16, 1962, “Crimen Sollicitationis,” approved by Blessed Pope John XXIII and published by the Holy Office which later became the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was an important document to “instruct” canonical cases and laicize the presbyters involved in the vileness of pedophilia. In particular, it dealt with violations of the sacrament of confession.

2. The “Epistula de Delictis Gravioribus” (on most grave crimes), signed May 18, 2001, by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as prefect of the congregation. That letter’s objective is to give practical execution of the norms (“Normae de Gravioribus Delictis”) promulgated with the apostolic letter “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela,” published on April 30, 2001, and signed by Pope John Paul II.

These documents deal with the Church’s internal judicial acts, at the canonical level. Therefore they do not deal with the accusations and the provisions of the civil courts of states, which must be carried out according to their own laws. Whoever has addressed or addresses the ecclesiastical court can also address the civil court, to denounce similar crimes. Therefore the action of the Church is not aimed at retracting these crimes from the jurisdiction of the state and keeping them hidden.

There exist two paths to ascertain and condemn priests responsible for acts of pedophilia: that of the Church, with canon law, and that of the state with penal law. Each of these two paths is autonomous and independent of the other: the civil forum and the canonical forum must not be confused. This means that, whether or not a civil trial has taken place, the Church must necessarily carry out the canonical process. At the moment of the application of canonical punishment, if it is deemed that the guilty priest has been sufficiently punished in the civil forum, in that case the canonical punishment can be withheld.

In Italian law, a private citizen (this includes the bishop and anyone invested with ecclesial authority) is required to accuse [before the state] only crimes for which the penalty is life in prison. Yet, in Church law established in 1962, it was obligatory, under penalty of excommunication, to accuse [before the state] crimes of pedophilia if they happened in conjunction with the sacrament of confession. Therefore, from this point of view, the Church’s legislation was more severe than that of the Italian state in punishing the crimes of pedophilia.

Q: What is the procedure followed by the Church to prosecute crimes of pedophilia committed by priests?

This is the prescribed procedure: Faced with the accusation of an act of pedophilia by a priest, the bishop (or ordinary) must first of all carry out an investigation to ascertain the certainty of the accusation. Having obtained proof, the bishop (or ordinary) must give the documentation of the case to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to follow the procedural path already contained in the Code of Canon Law. In the meantime, in some cases, the canonical judicial procedure to apply punishment can be followed — as, for example, demission from the clerical state — or, in other cases where, for example, the evidence is very clear, the administrative procedure can be carried out.

The seriousness with which the Church evaluates and judges acts of pedophilia is shown by the fact that with a new law passed in 2001, the Holy See (and not the local bishops) decided to reserve the right to judge those crimes. The new law says that judgments concerning “the crime against the sixth commandment committed by a cleric against a minor, under the age of 18, art. 4, are reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which acts in these cases as the ‘apostolic tribunal’ — as is prescribed in ‘Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela.'”

Q: Why does the Church reserve judgment to the Holy See?

The fact that the Pope wanted to reserve to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — a dicastery of the Holy See — with the apostolic letter “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela” judgment of the acts of pedophilia committed by priests, shows that the Church considers those acts to be very serious, serious crimes on the same level of the other two serious crimes — reserved to the Holy See — that can be committed against two sacraments: the Eucharist and the holiness of confession. Therefore the Holy See’s decision has nothing to do with wanting to hide potential scandals or to diminish the seriousness of these wicked deeds, but serves to help us understand that they are very serious crimes, to which they give the maximum attention, and for this reason they reserve judgment to one of the most important offices of the Holy See, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith and not “local” entities which could possibly be influenced.

Q: Why secrecy under penalty of excommunication?

In the first place, the two documents cited by the Holy See were not secret, given the fact that they were sent to all bishops — some 5,000 — to indicate what to do in cases of pedophilia.

The 1962 instruction calls for the excommunication of whoever reveals details about the canonical penal procedure. For this reason the Instruction dealt with the way in which to proceed in cases. Therefore we speak of the need for secrecy about the legal proceedings, equal to that called for, in civil proceedings, by the judge while an investigation is in progress. Nothing more, nothing less. As is the case with every legal procedure, even the canonical ones have steps that must be secret to allow the ascertainment of the truth and to protect the innocent.

The main reason why the instruction calls for secrecy in canonical procedures was to permit any future witnesses to come forth freely, with the guarantee that their statements would be confidential and not exposed to publicity. And as a consequence, the name of the accused was kept hidden before a sentence was given in the case.

Another reason the Holy See did not want to cover up these crimes is described in a paragraph of the 1962 document, that obligated anyone, victim or witness, that was aware of any sexual abuses occurring in the confessional to come forth with that information; if not, they would incur the penalty of excommunication.

In the new legislation of 2001, the secrecy of the legal proceedings was not only applicable to cases of sexual abuse, but also for crimes against the Eucharist and those against the sacrament of penance. The letter establishes the pontifical secrecy without establishing any punishment for the violation of that secrecy, even though it is a secret that binds the conscience in a stronger way than that of a normal secret. In this case, the reason for the secret is to protect and safeguard:

— the good name of the accused, who is considered innocent until proven otherwise

— the right to privacy of the victims and witnesses

— the freedom of the superior who must freely made judgments, without being under pressure

Despite “the right to the freedom of information, it must not allow moral evil to become an occasion for sensationalism” (John Paul II, Discourse to American Bishops).

We must not forget that secrecy is needed to safeguard the dignity of the people involved: Many times those who are accused are shown to be innocent in the preliminary investigation.

Q: How are the testimonies of the victims of acts of pedophilia evaluated?

We need to underline here that:

— the testimonies of victims need to be verified, for love of the truth and of the people involved, as is the case with other crimes;

— in order to safeguard the the right of the accused to a fair trial, both sides must be heard

— in many cases the question arises: Why did the victim not report the crime after it happened but instead waited many years?

We must not forget that in the Anglo-Saxon world, the diocese to which the guilty priest belongs also shares the responsibility for the crimes committed and must offer economic recompense to the victim: Besides suffering from the scandal itself, the Church also suffers economically (which can be pleasing to some …)

Q: What does the Church do for the victims of these crimes?

The Church is deeply saddened for the innocent victims, as well as for those men who never should have become priests and who, in some cases, received very little condemnation for the crimes they committed.

The Church invites everyone:

— to console the victims
— to support them in their quest for justice
— to immediately declare these crimes

We must not forget that the Church is also a victim, because those crimes are a serious offense to the dignity of the person, created in the image and likeness of God; and they damage Christian witness.

To the victims and to their families the Church offers:

— assistance through its institutions and persons;

— necessary collaboration with public institutions, when civil or penal laws call for it, with attention, delicacy and discretion for the people involved.

The Church community must, in becoming aware of these diabolical acts, know how to more severely condemn them, without confusing reservedness with a conspiracy of silence.

“The Catholic Church had to learn at her own expense the consequences of the grave errors of some of her members and has become more able to react and to prevent pedophilia. Society as a whole must realize that the protection of minors and the fight against pedophilia has a long way to go” (Father Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See’s Press Office).

In fact, the problem of pedophilia does not only involve the Catholic Church, but is a worldwide problem, especially in the West; it afflicts various categories of persons and professions; it has many faces — like sexual tourism, child pornography, sexual exploitation of minors: these phenomenon, according to data from the U.N., afflict more than 150 million young girls and boys. This is another alarming sign of the loss of fundamental values, like love, human dignity –especially that of minors — and the positive sense of sexuality.

Therefore it is urgent for everyone to pay full attention to the words Benedict XVI addressed to the Irish bishops in October 2006: “Establish the truth of what happened in the past, take all measures to avoid it happening in the future, ensure that the principles of justice are respected and, above all, heal the victims and all those who have been affected by these abnormal crimes.”

For further reading on this topic, please consult the following pontifical documents:

— Holy Office, “Crimen Sollicitationis,” instruction of March 16, 1962;

— John Paul II, “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela,” apostolic letter promulgating the “Normae de Gravioribus Delictis,” April 30, 2001; and

— Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “Epistula de Delictis Gravioribus,” May 18, 2001.


New Evidence on the Dangers of Marijuana

By Father John Flynn

ROME, JUNE 3, 2007 ( Many argue that restrictions on so-called light drugs such as marijuana should be eased. The issue is currently under debate in Italy, where government policy is torn between conflicting tendencies.

Health Minister Livia Turco just announced a proposal to send in inspectors to search for drugs in public schools, following concern over schoolchildren using marijuana, the Italian news agency ANSA reported May 28.

“We must also embark on a major information campaign to convince our children to avoid drugs,” Turco declared. The latest announcement was in marked contrast with a proposal the health minister floated a short time ago to raise the ceiling on the amount of marijuana, or cannabis, individuals can possess before being prosecute. That proposal seems dead after it drew strong protests.

One of those who intervened in the debate was Father Pierino Gelmini, founder of Comunità Incontro, a community in the central Italian city of Amelia, dedicated to helping addicts. In a lengthy interview published May 27 by Il Messaggero, Father Gelmini claimed that in 44 years of working with drug addicts, he and the community he founded have saved around 300,000 people.

Based on his decades of experience, Father Gelmini was strongly critical of any moves to weaken laws regarding drug use or possession. As it is, he pointed out, every day in Italy dozens of young people die of drug overdose. People want their children to be drug free, not for there to be free drugs, he exclaimed.

People err in thinking that drugs such as marijuana are innocuous, he stated. Moreover, they are often the gateway to other addictions. Father Gelmini added, however, that it is not enough to just take drugs away from addicts; the vacuum within people needs to be filled with ideals and values that will help them build a new life.


Concern over the ill effects of drugs such as marijuana is more than justified. In fact, just recently the Sunday edition of the British newspaper the Independent made a front-page turnaround in its policy of favoring the decriminalization of cannabis.

The newspaper published a series of articles on March 18 regarding marijuana. One of them asked readers to forgive the paper for the position it took in 1997 in favor of decriminalizing cannabis.

In January 2004 the British government downgraded cannabis from a class B drug to class C. This meant that those possessing small quantities of the drug could not be arrested.

Evidence is mounting, however, that the decision was the wrong move. The Independent explained that the cannabis sold today is far more potent than a decade or so ago. There has been up to a 25-fold increase in the amount of the main psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabidinol (THC), compared with the early 1990s.

More than 22,000 young people were treated last year in Britain for addiction to cannabis, the article stated. The newspaper cited research published in the medical journal The Lancet demonstrating that marijuana is more dangerous than LSD or ecstasy.

The Independent also quoted professor Colin Blakemore, chief of the Medical Research Council, who had originally backed the newspaper’s campaign for cannabis to be decriminalized. He has since changed his mind. “The link between cannabis and psychosis is quite clear now; it wasn’t 10 years ago,” said Blakemore.

Another opinion cited was that of Robin Murray, professor of psychiatry at London’s Institute of Psychiatry. Murray estimated that at least 25,000 of the 250,000 schizophrenics in the United Kingdom could have avoided the illness if they had not used cannabis.

“Society has seriously underestimated how dangerous cannabis really is,” professor Neil McKeganey, from Glasgow University’s Center for Drug Misuse Research, told the Independent. “I think we are faced with a generation blighted by the effects of cannabis use.”

Just a few days later, on March 24, the British newspaper the Times published evidence regarding marijuana’s dangers. The Times quoted a study published in the journal Addiction, warning that by the end of the decade one in four new cases of schizophrenia could be triggered by smoking cannabis.

The Department of Health, according to the newspaper, says it is now generally agreed among doctors that cannabis is an important causal factor in mental illness.

Not soft

The Independent returned to the debate on March 25. Among other articles was an opinion piece by Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

Cannabis is not at all a “soft” drug, Costa admonished, referring to the dangers for mental health. He recommended that countries invest greater resources in prevention, treatment and rehabilitation instead of weakening legal measures on its possession and use.

Costa gave the example of Sweden, where drug use is only one-third of the European average, and where spending on drug control is three times the European average. “Governments and societies must keep their nerve and avoid being swayed by misguided notions of tolerance,” said Costa.

On April 22 the Independent published further material on the dangers of marijuana. A 10-year study followed 1,900 schoolchildren until they were 25. The study compared alcohol drinkers with cannabis users. Those who started to use the drug in their teens had a greater probability of suffering mental illness, having relationship problems, and failing out of school or getting fired from their jobs.

The research was carried out at Melbourne University’s Center for Adolescent Heath in Australia and published in the journal Addiction.

“Cannabis really does look like the drug of choice for life’s future losers,” said professor George Patton, who conducted the study.

More evidence came to light on April 30, with a report by the BBC regarding new evidence on mental health problems. A study carried out at London’s Institute of Psychiatry found that people who took the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, showed reduced activity in an area of the brain called the inferior frontal cortex, which keeps inappropriate thoughts and behavior, such as swearing and paranoia, in check.

A second study cited by the BBC, this time by a team from Yale University, found that 50% of healthy volunteers who were administered THC began to show symptoms of psychosis.

Loss of dignity

The Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry addressed the question of drugs in a pastoral handbook titled “Church: Drugs and Drug Addiction,” published in 2001. From a moral point of view the Church cannot approve drug use, the text explained, because it involves an unjustified renunciation of thinking, willing and acting as free persons (No. 43).

The council said individuals have no “right” to abdicate their personal dignity or to harm themselves. Liberalization of drug laws, the council warned, runs the risk of bringing into existence an inferior class of underdeveloped human beings, who depend on drugs to live. This would be a dereliction of the state’s duty to promote the common good (No. 51).

Instead of extending access to drugs, the manual proposed greater education that will teach people the true sense of life and give priority to values, starting with the values of life and love, illuminated by faith. The Church also proposes a therapy of love and dedication to the needs of addicts in order to help them overcome their problems (Nos. 53-55). Solutions that are not easy to carry out, but which offer a remedy in accordance with human dignity.