Ethics Dunce AGAIN By A Man In A Position That Should Never Include An Ethics Dunce: Pope Francis

Let’s see now. You are the titular head of a religious organization that talks a good game about virtue, morality and the dangers of sin, and it has been shaken to its core by an ongoing scandal involving thousands of officials sexually molesting hundreds of thousands of children while your organization not only covered up the crimes, but facilitated them. After the latest outbreak of this decades—centuries?—long scandal, you declared that your organization would regain the trust of its members by reversing its previous corrupt practices, and send clear messages that the conduct that endangered and damaged children would not be tolerated.

Then, when one of the highest officials in your organization offers his resignation after being convicted in a court of law for failing to stop one of the ongoing molesters despite knowledge of his vile  activities, you refuse to accept that resignation.

What sense does this make? This is a fair summary of Pope Francis’s recent decision to reject the resignation of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin despite his conviction this month for covering up decades-old allegations of sexual abuse by a priest in his diocese. The only way it makes sense is if the Pope doesn’t comprehend the seriousness of the sex abuse scandal, and still places loyalty to the church and his colleagues above the welfare of victims past, present and future.

The Vatican announced that Barbarin, one of the highest-ranking and best-known Roman Catholic officials in France, will step aside for an unspecified length of time. Cardinal Barbarin said in in his own statement that the Pope had acted “invoking the presumption of innocence.” Uh, guys? “Presumption of innocence” only applied before an accused individual has been convicted in a court of law. At this point, he should be presumed guilty. Indeed, given how many Catholic priests and officials have conspired to sexually abuse children over the years while the Church looked the other way, I am tempted to say that it would be reasonable to presume that any Catholic priest is a predator, or at least to fear he might be.

It was just a few weeks ago that the Pope completes a conference  with church leaders from around the world on how the Catholic Church should deal with the still throbbing scandal. The Church’s bishops were urged to take the issue seriously—how could they not take the issue seriously?– and to stop protecting their own, putting children at risk around the globe, as well as undermining the Church’s credibility and authority. Hearing this, Pope Francis nodded, thought deeply, and decided the best way to proceed was to allow a Cardinal convicted of doing exactly that to keep his job, and to send the message that he and his Church do not take the issue seriously enough.

What a good plan!

Anne Barrett Doyle is co-director of the advocacy group, and she said, in response to the Pope’s bone-headed and depressing action;

“Pope Francis’ decision to refuse Cardinal Barbarin’s resignation today is a depressing reminder of the pope’s autocratic disregard for victims,Once again, Francis is standing by a complicit bishop and dismissing the testimony of survivors.”

It’s pretty hard to disagree with that.


Source: New York Times

40 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce AGAIN By A Man In A Position That Should Never Include An Ethics Dunce: Pope Francis

  1. I think he will only defrock or otherwise punish officials who actively participated in abuse themselves, like former Archbishop of Newark Theodore McCarrick, who propositioned boys during confession and did a lot worse. Like Cardinal Law before him, this guy will just be shuffled off to a cushy behind the scenes job, since all he did was look the other way.

  2. Frankie is just another global elite acting as they do; except his elite status is based on moral teachings, which makes him even worse than the average do as I say not as I do elitist. Ignoring reality and responsibility while doing whatever he pleases.

    Reminds me a bit of ‘The Brothers Karamzov’ chapter, ‘The Grand Inquisitor’.

    Which figure is it who is purported to have said, ‘Do whatever thou willst?’

    Makes you wonder which side Frankie is really on, doesn’t it?

  3. The Catholic Church has been a corrupt and a pompous ass good ole boys club for nearly a thousand years and they will remain that way until they completely strip their ridiculous requirements of celibacy from the church and accept the fact that priests and nuns are regular human beings like the rest of us. Priests are not Jesus and they’re not holy, nuns are not the Virgin Mary and they’re not holy! In this regard, as far as I’m concerned the Catholic Church has been and is continuing to bastardize Christianity. The Catholic Church needs to climb down from their narcissistic pompous ass pedestals, until then they cannot “fix” their church.

    No Alizia, I will not get into a debate with you or anyone else about what Christianity is.

    • Zoltar,

      As a question, why is the requirement of celibacy ridiculous? Especially in the context that St. Paul recommended celibacy as the state of being for priests and bishops. Do you believe that the requirement of celibacy leads to sex abuse?

      • Here’s my take, Ryan. The clergy and its hierarchy have been a nasty gay cabal for centuries, perhaps millennia. The gay guys get the run of the place because there are no women around. If you stop the celibacy scam, there will be heterosexual guys and, GASP, women in the rectory and other places. And sure, celibacy keeps heterosexuals out of the priesthood, abandoning it to gay guys. But the gay guys in power, like numbnut Francis, will never surrender control to straight guys. The Vatican is too fabulous to let a bunch of straight guys and women loose in there. And then there would be children messing things up!

        • As a note, the Church only requires priestly celibacy in the Latin Rite as a matter of discipline, not of doctrine, so certainly celibacy can go away. The Eastern Catholic Rites allow for married priests, and there are even dispensations in the Latin Rite for married men to become priests (for example, pastors in the Anglican church who convert to Catholicism and are ordained).

          The reasons for celibacy are twofold. First, Scripture recommends it as the highest path. Jesus recommends that those who can accept celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom should (Matthew 19:12). St. Paul recommends celibacy for the reason that the unmarried can devote themselves wholly to God, while the married are divided between service to God and their spouse and children.

          Second, celibacy in the priesthood is intended to be a visible sign of the priest’s espousal to the Church. Zoltar accused the Church of claiming priests are Jesus, and he presents a slightly distorted version of the truth. The priest, in his ordination, is enabled to participate in Jesus’ High Priesthood, and at Mass stands in Jesus’ place at the altar. So, just as Jesus is espoused to the Church, so the priest participates in that espousal. So, while celibacy is not required, it is an appropriate sign in a man who is following in Jesus’ footsteps (and Jesus, mind you, was celibate) and dedicating his whole live to service to the Church.

          Finally, celibacy itself is a sacrifice of something good for something higher, namely the sacrifice of wife and children and yes, sex, to the higher good of dedicating oneself to God. The priestly calling is not forced on anyone. If anyone does not want to remain celibate, he can freely choose not to be a priest. But for someone wanting to become a priest, he should want to follow Jesus as one of those who gave up family and livelihood for his sake, so as to receive a hundredfold back in the Kingdom of Heaven.

          • Why did it take the church 1000 years to realize that celibacy was so important? All the rationalization behind it fall away once you realize that it wasn’t important for 1000 years, but once clergy started dispensing with a lot of church property for dowries, suddenly celibacy is a really important requirement.

            • Michael,

              The question of when celibacy was seen to be important and when it was codified as a mandatory discipline are two different matters. Celibacy was always understood to be a higher path, and those who undertook celibacy were venerated for their dedication.

              Writings from Church Fathers and historians show that celibacy was widely expected even before the Council of Nicea. While it was held a matter of choice for a married man to become a priest, it was very consistent that once Holy Orders were bestowed upon a deacon, priest, or bishop, they were not to marry or remarry.

              But certainly, codifying disciplinary actions to confront various abuses go with the territory. The Church has always struggled to keep its clergy under control. So many Council decisions have been rendered trying to maintain priestly virtue, priestly education, episcopal decency (especially regarding absenteeism), and so on. It makes a great deal of sense that if a problem is creeping up in the clergy where married priests and bishops are making their parishes and diocese their family fiefdoms, that the Church would push for the requirement of celibacy to fight off those problems.

              Of course, that does nothing to stop priests and bishops from handing off Church property to illegitimate children…

              Frankly, with all the ethical issues that have risen in the ranks of the clergy from the beginning of the Church to today, the only explanation I have for why the Church still exists is through divine intervention.

          • … there are even dispensations in the Latin Rite for married men to become priests (for example, pastors in the Anglican church who convert to Catholicism and are ordained).

            No, that’s a poor example, even though the principle is correct, thus:-

            – Those positions in the Anglican church aren’t pastors (that’s a low-ish church euphemism, or a dissenting church role). But the prayer book reveals that those actually are priests, e.g. with expressions like “the priest may say…”.

            – The Roman Catholic view was once that those weren’t priests at all, with apostolic succession having failed. But now the position is that those really are priests, just ones gone astray. That means that there need be no dispensations of that sort at all for those men; what they get is actually a licence to ply their trade, so to speak – because “pastors in the Anglican church” is not what those people essentially are, only what they incidentally are. They essentially are priests already, so there is no need for them to become priests at all.

            – Notwithstanding all that, yes, there are indeed such dispensations. But they are only needed for married men who are not yet priests.

      • Ryan Harkins wrote, “As a question, why is the requirement of celibacy ridiculous?”

        I think I’ve already shared my opinion on that above.

        Ryan Harkins wrote, “Especially in the context that St. Paul recommended celibacy as the state of being for priests and bishops.”

        St. Paul recommended it, so what? Has St. Paul been elevated to be equivalent to Jesus or God and his recommendations are “law”.

        Ryan Harkins wrote, “Do you believe that the requirement of celibacy leads to sex abuse?”

        What I “believe” is irrelevant but I’ll entertain the question this way; I think that celibacy is sexual repression and sexual repression can lead to psychological problems. Priests that sexually assault young men clearly have some kind of psychological problem that pushed them into such immoral behavior.

          • Michael. Surely you jest.

            Straight guys don’t want to be celibate. They are virtually incapable of being so. As a result, straight guys stayed away but gay guys went into the priesthood and had a grand old time together in a huge, elegantly appointed closet while appearing to be “celibate.”

            Capice? It’s not that hard.

            • Other Bill,

              Certainly there is no question that there are priests with same-sex attraction who practice homosexual acts. The question is, how prominent are these priests, and what conclusions should we draw?

              Estimates of how many priests deal with same-sex attraction range from 16% to 70%, depending on how one defines the attraction and how one extrapolates data. Some of the better estimates place the number of priests with same-sex attraction at 30%, with a reasonable range at 22% to 45%. The incident rate of men with same-sex attraction in the general populace is about 3-5%. In other words, yes, they are disproportionately represented in Catholic clergy.

              Now, if we look at the John Jay report from 2004, we find a statistic that about 4% of Catholic clergy abused minors in the previous 50 years. That’s on par with sex offense rates across the entire population. But other statistics show that in the general populace, the number of male sex offenders with same-sex victims account for about a third of all sex offenders.

              Here’s the interesting conclusion from these statistics. Men with same-sex attraction offend at higher rates (33% representation in the sex offender populace versus 3-5% in general populace). Men with same-sex attraction are over-represented in Catholic clergy (again, 22-45% by best estimates), and yet Catholic clergy offense rates have been on par with offense rates of the general population. Thus, men with same-sex attraction are under-represented in the category of Catholic priest sex offenders.

              While there is no argument that the vast majority of offending priests have same-sex attraction, on a whole it seems that being a Catholic priests makes one less likely to offend if one has same-sex attraction.

              On the other hand, this says absolutely nothing about the cover-ups and the ongoing scandal of cardinals and others high in the hierarchy involved in homosexual orgies and the like…

        • Zoltar,

          I respect you not wanting to repeat yourself. I will simply apologize for not having read what you’ve said before.

          For St. Paul, I thought we were discussing writings that all Christians agreed were the inspired Word of God… But even so, Jesus does recommend celibacy for those who can accept it, for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.

          But regarding celibacy as sexual repression, I find that thought disturbing. It is essentially a notion that, “if someone doesn’t get enough sex, he’ll start abusing.” I would like to hear your response on that, but if you’ve already addressed that before, I’ll apologize again and move on.

          Priests that sexually assault anyone, period, have psychological problems, no doubt. But there’s a very strong argument that those problems existed before entrance into the priesthood, and celibacy had nothing to do with it. Besides, from what some priests have told me, there’s actually no shortage of adult women who would love to take a priest to their beds, so the fact that much of priestly abuse has manifested against young men suggests to me that celibacy is not the actual problem.

          • Ryan Harkins wrote, “But regarding celibacy as sexual repression, I find that thought disturbing. It is essentially a notion that, “if someone doesn’t get enough sex, he’ll start abusing.” I would like to hear your response on that…”

            I’ll not respond to that because that’s literally not what I meant, not what I wrote and not what I implied; correlation does not equal causation. If I had thought that one thing caused the other I would have said so.

            I wrote, “I think that celibacy is sexual repression and sexual repression can lead to psychological problems.”, there was a period at the end of that sentence. I think you might have read something that wasn’t there. I stand behind what I wrote.

            I don’t mind if you disagree.

  4. “Presumption of innocence” only applied before an accused individual has been convicted in a court of law. At this point, he should be presumed guilty. .

    Others said the same about Brett Kavanaugh.

  5. So, let’s look a little deeper into the story here, and see if we can’t get a better grasp on “What’s going on?”

    Cardinal Philippe Barbarin has been Archbishop of Lyon since 2002. Prior to that, he was Bishop of Moulins starting in 1998. Prior to that, he was a priest who served in various parishes since his ordination in 1977, and taught in Madagascar from 1994 until his ordination as bishop. He has been accused, not of committing any sexual abuse himself, and not even covering up for an abusive priest, but for taking inadequate action in reporting allegations against a priest.

    This priest, Fr. Bernard Preynat, abused something like 40+ boys in a Scout Troop in 1991. He was put on leave for six months at the time by the then-Archbishop, who is now deceased. But he was admittedly reinstated and continued his pastoral work until 2015. He was promoted by Cardinal Barbarin in 2007. In 2014 and 2015, accusations against Preynat surfaced. Barbarin contacted Rome for advice, and ultimately removed Preynat from ministry in October of 2015. In the meantime, authorities opened an investigation against Preynat, and then in 2016 concluded there wasn’t sufficient evidence to continue the investigation. Later in 2017, with more complaints coming forth, the investigation was opened again, which have eventually led to Preynat confessing to authorities the abuse he committed. He is still waiting trial.

    The charge against Barbarin are that he failed to report the accusations against Preynat to the civil authorities, but there are details here that are murky. When he became Archbishop in 2002, the allegations against Preynat were already 11 years old, with no pending action. The allegations were brought to Barbarin in 2014, and the French courts in 2016 said that Barbarin was not responsible for passing on information to authorities for allegations over 23 years old. In fact, there was a 3 year time bar in place in the French legal code, which has since been modified.

    However, when the French courts started investigating Barbarin as to whether or not he failed to properly report Preynat, Barbarin tendered his resignation. Pope Francis refused to accept it, on similar grounds as now. In effect, if Barbarin were acquitted in the eyes of the world, and still was forced to resign, no Bishop or Priest however innocent would be safe. Anyone with a grudge could make an accusation, and they would effectively be forced to resign, even if later exonerated. (Does this problem sound familiar to anyone else in any other circumstances?)

    The conviction Barbarin received earlier this month was in the civil courts, as the victims brought civil charges against Barbarin when the criminal courts effectively stated that Barbarin was not liable for reporting Preynat and did not impede justice. Keep in mind, that Barbarin did act and removed Preynat from ministry in 2015, so the general stance is that Barbarin followed what was legally required of him and did preemptively remove an abuse priest from service when allegations against him surfaced and in such quantity as to be credible.

    Now, Barbarin is appealing the conviction, and so the legal matters have not fully run that course. Pope Francis does not want to accept Barbarin’s resignation prior to the appeal being settled. This is legally grounded, but it is true that it does have the appearance of impropriety.

    But the larger question is this. What is the proper way for the Church to handle allegations? Is every accused priest supposed to resign, regardless of the facts of the case? (Let me rewrite that: is every Supreme Court nominee supposed to withdraw his nomination just because someone made allegations, or should those allegations be shown to be true first?)

    There’s a fine line to walk in these cases. On the one side, the too-permissive attitude with the accusations of covering things up. (And I mean currently, not looking back at the cover ups that did happen especially from 1970 to 1990.) On the other is caving to every accusation without letting investigations and legal proceedings run their course. I don’t think there’s a way to navigate the middle ground, because there will always be those who think the Church didn’t do enough, and those who feel the Church is surrendering to a witch-hunt.

    • Well, that is the best spin that can possibly be put on this. But the real question is easy. Because the Church has been so despicably, unconscionably, miserably, wantonly, dishonestly and unethically complicit in child abuse for—how many years? 50? 100? 500?—it doesn’t have the luxury of demanding a high bar for dismissal. This isn’t a movie studio, its a major religious organization that stands for virtue and living a moral life, and it has allowed horrible, criminal conduct to flourish unaddressed in its ranks. The Ethics Incompleteness Principle holds that there are exceptions to every rule, and here are some: Strict liability is usually unfair and unethical, but the Catholic Church is an exception now. Giving the benefit of the doubt to the credibly accused is the ethical approach, but the Catholic Church no longer deserves that privilege. Just as private companies have to fire employees and managers when continuing to employ them undermines the viability of the organization even though it may be unfair to the individual, so the Church cannot afford to be generous.

      And you neglect that fact that the Cardinal resigned. This made doing the right and responsible thing easy—and the Pope still wouldn’t do it.

      • And you neglect that fact that the Cardinal resigned. This made doing the right and responsible thing easy—and the Pope still wouldn’t do it.

        Actually, the detail I neglected was that, at least according to an article I read at LifesiteNews (a very conservative Catholic site that is pretty militant against Pope Francis), Barbarin was supposedly on the short list of Francis’ potential successors. If true, I think that would make the Pope’s denial of the resignation even more egregious.

        I’m not personally any fan of Pope Francis, but I’ve seen too much twisting of his words and his motives from both sides of the aisle to feel that I have any real grasp on how he actually thinks. What I was trying to offer was some background so that we all can understand that the Pope’s decisions here were not completely detached from the real world.

        The Ethics Incompleteness Principle holds that there are exceptions to every rule, and here are some: Strict liability is usually unfair and unethical, but the Catholic Church is an exception now.

        I will always be uncomfortable with explanations like this, because it smacks up against Rationalization #28, “These are not ordinary times!” Certainly in this case, I think the ethical analysis you already presented, namely “The cardinal did offer his resignation, his persistence in active ministry will be a continual drag on the church, and he was indeed convicted”, stands on its own without need for recourse to exceptions to rules.

        • Michael, I was raised Catholic, in spades. There was nothing my mother wanted more on this Earth than to have her boys be priests I was never approached by any priest or brother because my parents were present and would have landed on any untoward action like a ton of bricks. I quit going to mass as soon as I got my driver’s license. A very good friend of mine from high school just mentioned in the last few months that one of the Marist Brothers at our Marist high school propositioned him (my friend) when we were in high school and my friend was playing guitar for the guy in guitar masses. I worked in a law firm where one of the guys there worked for the local diocese. Trust me, the Church is despicable. I’m not an anti-papist so don’t pull that card. If you think the church is being victimized by anti-papists, I pity you. The church has made its bed, it’s going to have to sleep in it. Be very careful. You don’t want to enable these bastards.

        • 1. One community is a poor comparison to “the world.” Orthodox Judaism does not have a history of widespread child abuse and cover-ups.
          2. It’s not only a valid principle but an essential one to ethical decisionmaaking. It’s why Kant’s absolutism only works in narrow circumstances.
          3. There are exceptions to the Ethics Incompleteness Principle—the EIP teaches us so. But the Catholic Church problem isn’t one of them. If it were a school, it would be closed. If it were a company, it would be bankrupt. It is supposed to be beyond reproach, and with each egregious breach of trust, it deserves less and less good will.

          I don’t hate Catholics at all. But I feel sorry for them. I don’t like child predators and the people who enable them, and that accurately describes the Church leadership and bureaucracy. No?

          • One community is a poor comparison to “the world.” Orthodox Judaism does not have a history of widespread child abuse and cover-ups.

            The editors of the Huffington Post disagreed.

            The Post ran a series of articles of this type of abuse in these communities, with comparisons to the Catholic Church far too common.

            • You are using tainted sources. Why would you cite an obvious progressive sold out rag when you would not trust what they say about Trump (and they have a lot to say about Trump!)

      • On your last paragraph, declining a resignation is an ethical issue for me even without the circumstances. More to the point, “I quit” isn’t something to accept or reject, it’s a statement of fact.

  6. Ryan Harkins is certainly as heroic a cowboy figure as his thumbnail portrays. He could trade up to an image of St. Louis, King of France. I saw this post from yesterday and worried about the work I’d left undone only to find it was already done better than I could have myself.

    I’dve sprinkled it with a few mystical arguments. I’ll tack one on, hopefully with the approval of my new military superior.

    The modernist heresy is synthesis of all heresies (cf. Pascendi Dominici Gregis). It is the strongest and most pernicious attack on the Church. Its practitioners view history as an unfolding process of continual, not-consciously-directed improvement which they, even at this time, nonetheless are constantly attempting to direct. It’s a presumption which precedes all reason which is therefore immune to all reason. It thrives in a collective of the likeminded and casts vague and unfounded but pointed and definitive aspersions on anyone found not to hold that presumption. The march through the institutions of which we are all aware needs no further introduction. Bella Dodd’s testimony before Congress that the funneling of homosexuals into the Catholic seminaries was a project of Communists internationally, however, may. The notion of rejecting the Church for the sake of the sinners in it is an old, tired trope – a refuge of self-aggrandizing atheists. I’m hardly angered by it anymore emotionally, and the circumstances do make it a little more understandable than in the past. One can hardly excuse handing over the victory which was the victory intended by the perpetrators of the crime, though. I don’t negotiate with terrorists as a matter of even-headed principle rather than a weakness in my fortitude. The same can not be said of those who do.

    The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres…churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord

    This was all old news before it even broke. Marian apparitions have a funny way of turning out to be true and being accompanied by miracles which defy materialist explanation (I don’t want to hear about hokey, perfectly timed, not-precedented-or-repeated-in-scope-or-range-of-motion parhelions; the excuse of coincidence exceeds its limit far before this). If you would have me stop listening to the Church founded by the God-Man by the infusion of His Divine Grace while He still lived, you’ll need to point to evidence beyond the crimes of men visible in every institution in the West who were placed in those institutions with the goal of undermining the philosophical groundwork of morality. Evil men hate the Church and seed it with “damnable sodomites” (St. Peter Damian’s words). Nothing about this is surprising. St. Padre Pio healed stage four breast cancer through prayer. Maybe that’s not surprising either. The reason we aren’t surprised is that the Thing in question is a Thing worth all the effort of all that historically-provable undermining, and we all already know it. Is it more rational to love the Church for Its Saints or to hate and leave It for its sinners, the equal of which exist outside even in greater number?

    Can the secular moral authority top that? Where is my undeniable proof from Heaven that the agnostics of equally fallen moral character have a greater case to be made for moral truth? What is the basis of that case? Does it even have one? Is the question that the hypocrisy of people in the Church (people at the top, even) undermines the Church’s God-given moral authority? To this I say, “Yes, that was the intention.” Does this assertion follow with a wholesale rejection of the Church’s principles? To this I say, “Yes, that was the intention, but this isn’t a rational response, given all of the realities in play which I’ve roughly sketched.” I have no arguments to counter what would then remain an irrational, fundamentally emotional response.

    Is it that the college of Cardinals is peopled by some unknown number of heretic agents actively undermining and violating the Church’s moral precepts who can’t be trusted? This is barely distinguishable from a Catholic dogma. It’s been publicly part of the Church’s teaching for the entirety of Its existence.

    This is war. This is the war which stands beneath and animates all wars, and it’s been waged for all of time. Anyone who says this is merely the Church’s problem should reflect on how the Church’s problem is somehow also everyone else’s problem everywhere around the world and to equal degree.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.