Ratzinger refused to defrock priest at abuser’s own request

Via the Telegraph:

The case involved an American priest, the late Rev Alvin Campbell, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 1985 for abusing seven boys.

After he was jailed Bishop Daniel Ryan of the diocese of Springfield, Illinois, wrote to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, asking for Campbell to be defrocked immediately, instead of going through a church trial which would be harrowing for victims. But Cardinal Ratzinger turned down the bishop’s plea because the abuser himself refused to agree to it.

According to documents obtained by the Associated Press from court records, the cardinal wrote on July 3, 1989: “The petition in question cannot be admitted in as much as it lacks the request of Father Campbell himself.” The decision was in keeping with church law at the time and provides the latest evidence of how the system frustrated US bishops struggling to root out abuse. Several decades old cases have recently emerged raising questions about decisions taken by Cardinal Ratzinger’s office in abuse cases. The Vatican has denounced what it calls a campaign to smear the pope and his aides.

Campbell had been an Army chaplain but left after abusing at least one boy. He then became a pastor in Illinois and began plying boys with video games, bicycles, watches and other gifts before abusing them. He was released after serving half his jail sentence in 1992, and was eventually convinced by priests in his diocese to accept defrocking without a church trial.

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said: “Ratzinger chose to put concerns about dangerous paedophiles and the church’s reputation above concerns about children’s safety.”

In at least a half dozen prior cases ( Peter Hullerman, Marcel Maciel, Lawrence Murphy, Michael Teta, Robert C. Trupia, Stephen Kiesle, and Hans Groër,) there was room for the strained interpretation that Ratzinger merely mishandled abuse cases by the standards of today, or acted slowly, or used his full but meager power to police abuse as an internal matter. In any given individual case, one could argue he did have the victims in mind. But the cases kept piling up, and soon a pattern of inaction emerged, and this interpretation became strained. He could be called either
 But this case, reviewed in-of-itself and independent of Ratzinger’s prior record, is unambiguous. He refused to discipline an abuser because the abuser refused to accept his punishment. The rapist was left free to abuse for at least five more years under the aegis of Church protection. And now, Ratzinger is claiming the bare recitation of these facts  is tantamount to smearing, “petty gossip.” He is constitutionally incapable of acknowledging either the gravity of the crimes or his responsibility in them.
The man is either criminally incompetent, or tremendously callous in his failure to understand the traumas of child abuse, or egomaniacal in his conviction only Joseph Ratzinger was capable of prosecuting cases that were clearly matters for civil law. That is the trilemma we are faced with.

A late document from the O’Brien case

Published May 18 but only now entering my radar:

Mary E. Hunt,  theologian, co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), and out lesbian, writing in Religious Dispatches, analyzes the stated rationale for dismissing Jodi O’Brien:

The university issued an inexplicable statement claiming that although Professor O’Brien brings:

an excellent background, a record of achievement and a strong academic track record… it was decided after further analysis that this individual was not the person who could best fill this very important position.

It continues:

There were certain oversights in the search process, and we regret that deeply. As a result of this search, the university will revise some aspects of the search process.

Note the increasingly abstract rhetoric. It starts with Dr. O’Brien, then she becomes an “individual,” later a “person” as the agent fades into oblivion. Note the complete lack of anyone taking responsibility. Just how did those “oversights” jump into the search process all by themselves? This sort of shifty, murky statement usually hides a multitude of sins, as it does here.

I await further clarification, but at this writing it seems that the only plausible explanation for rescinding an offer made to so obviously qualified a candidate is discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or prejudice related to the nature of her scholarship vis-à-vis queer families. A runner-up explanation is that Marquette administrators are totally incompetent. Pick your poison.

She talks about the two positions as if they’re mutually exclusive. They’re not.

Encroachment on academic freedom in Catholic institutions is not new, but it has been confined in the main to theology. Apparently now even sociology at Catholic institutions must be done within the narrow parameters of Roman Catholic hierarchical views. Likewise, the promised revision of the hiring process can only mean that candidates whose views do not square with institutional Roman Catholic theology will be discriminated against before the offer is made. Private universities like Bob Jones, Oral Roberts, and now Marquette do that. It goes on all the time of course, but the university acts as if the major issue at stake here were sloppy work rather than egregious action against a person they pursued in the first place.

Marquette may be in the vanguard of Catholic institutions that are growing increasingly parochial, shaping the social sciences and perhaps eventually the physical sciences to Roman kyriarchal ideology rather than to the gold standard in the field. It is a sad loss of what might have become a world-class university.

President Wild stated several times for the camera, and obviously on the advice of counsel, that this retraction of a perfectly legal contract is “not about sexual orientation.” It will be interesting to see what the lawsuit looks like, or whether Marquette will settle for a large sum out of court. He waxed poetic about the many gay and lesbian people at Marquette: “We have a variety of men and women here who are homosexual who work in all sorts of venues in this university, holding a variety of positions. They do great work, they make a valuable contribution to this institution.”

I know some of the best and brightest at Marquette and they were not persuaded by his line. I asked Robert Wild about these queer people at Marquette in my letter: “Is it because they are worthy to do the dishes or clean the floors but not to be a dean? Is it because they are in high teaching and/or administrative positions but remain closeted so no one has to deal with the truth of their Catholic lives, the fact that many great leaders in Catholic higher education are gay or lesbian? Is it because they are athletes and bring fame and fortune to the university that they are ‘allowed’ to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, still part of that winning Catholic team as long as they remain silent on their sexuality? What about the many valiant heterosexual allies who bring their professional expertise to bear when they support same-sex love despite the institutional Catholic Church’s antiquated teachings?” No response.

In memorium

Today is Memorial Day.

(above) Arlington National Cemetery.

I thank any current or former service members for their sacrifices.

Monday Morning Surrealism

Bataille, I think, was a bad materialist. In a 1931 text, he aimed to describe the modes of nature’s operation—tides, the rising and setting of the sun, the growth and wilting of plants—by way of analogy to human and animal activities. Or rather, one humane-animal activity, viz., copulation. Nature, he insinuates, is best understood in human terms.

For the right-thinking materialist, this is backwards. Nature is not anthropomorphic, but humanity is natural. To insinuate otherwise is to turn the order of things upside down and sew confusion. The universe is not to be understood in relation to human desires, anxieties, and self-conceptions, but humanity is to be understood by its operation within the universal laws of nature. 

But there is a tricky genius which perpetuates the contrary to this prescription, thus causing errors: speech. Language contaminates all things it touches with humanity. Consider that commonest jargon of naturalism, mechanistic materialism or mechanistic materialist. Both phrases are anthropomorphisms once removed, for nature is described by the analogy of the machines humans make. But the right-thinking materialist understands that humane machines are imitations of nature’s arrangements. For what is a lever but another (constructed, cruder) extension of the forepaw? What is a pivot but a simplified, manufactured joint?

The machine can only be understood by analogy to bodies in nature; but to explain nature as a machine, or an organism, or a human being writ large, is imply that it possesses ends, purposes, and desires it cannot possibly have. This implication may be unintended, unconscious, even entirely against our intentions–but the implication is there nonetheless.

Bataille’s premise is sillier than the pelvic imagery he uses to convey it. Even if he does not mean this essay, which I do not care to name, to be interpreted literally (how could he?), it leads the reader into commonest errors. And it leads him or her by the hand.

In which I am favorably disposed to the Nordic nations


Today, I saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the first non-Bergman Swedish film I’ve ever seen:

A cleverly and meticulously detailed mystery film that makes us care as much–maybe more–about the investigator as the crime itself. Based novel Män som hatar kvinnor by Steig Larsson. Though useful as a character illustration, a subplot concerning a brutal rapist probation officer contributed nothing to the advacement of the plot. As a self-contained narrative, it is one of the most graphic and pathetic depictions of sexual violence I’ve seen on film, and concludes with morally ambiguous catharsis. But the protagonist to suffer through the abuses, the punkish hacker Lisabeth Salander (played by a haunting Noomi Rapace), was wounded before its occurrence, and only reflects on her original domestic horrors at any length later in the film. (Besides one poigniant silence in response to a question about her photographic memory, the parole officer subplot is not alluded to again after its neat if bloody conclusion.)However, director Niels Arden Oplev and stars Rapace and Michael Nyqvist  work so well together establishing Atmosphere and Circumstance, they were able to pass off an increasingly meladramatic plot as entirely believable–and chilling, and nuanced. B+

II. Today, I also heard about The Best Party, and its recent electoral success:

A party that calls itself “the Best” has won local elections in the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik. The Best Party, founded by comedian Jon Gnarr, secured 34.7% of the vote, ahead of the Independence Party’s 33.6%. Its campaign video featured candidates singing to the tune of Tina Turner’s “Simply The Best”. Key pledges included “sustainable transparency”, free towels at all swimming pools and a new polar bear for the city zoo. The party also called for a Disneyland at the airport and a “drug-free parliament” by 2020…The Best Party was only established six months ago. Its victory means it will hold six seats on the 15-member city council.

It’s like Colbert actually winning a primary!

In which my honeymoon with Lady Gaga ends

Stefani Germanotta has spent $4,500 in American dollars on ghost-hunting services, during a recession.

Although, to be honest, things have never been the same since that Telephone video. There was not a thing in that that made sense.

German recession sees resurgance in left-wing violence

Via Der Spiegel:

German Interior Ministry crime statistics for 2009 show a 53 percent jump in the number of left-wing attacks, the largest increase seen in many years. Police recorded a total of 1,822 left-wing acts of violence in all of Germany, considerably more than those committed by right-wing extremists.Those statistics include, among other things, the burning of several hundred cars in Berlin, a large-scale attack carried out by masked individuals on a police station in Hamburg in December and an attack on vehicles belonging to the Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces, in Dresden in April 2009, which saw equipment worth €3 million ($3.7 million) go up in flames.