Apr 26, 2010

Sympathy for Catholic Bishops?

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

USA Today asks if the recent revelations about Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos give us reason to feel some sympathy for bishops who protected abusive priests. It's an interesting question because it's not just the common folk who have piled blame on bishops. As discussed here, so did Pope Benedict in his recent letter to the Irish church. He laid the blame on everyone and everything but the Vatican. But what the Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos scandal demonstrates is that the problem is directly traceable to the Vatican. Indeed, it is directly traceable to the late Pope John Paul II. The lack of discussion of that salient fact I can only attribute to a kind of cognitive dissonance. It seems no one is ready to even look at it.

It takes a lot to make people feel any sympathy for any Catholic bishops who knew about pedophile priests but failed to remove them. However, an investigation at National Catholic Reporter, looking at yet another case involving Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, might give people pause.

From the National Catholic Reporter we learn that not only did the now retired Cardinal make a proud example of Bishop Pican for shielding a pedophile priest, he directly pressured another bishop to protect a prolific, serial abuser.

Castrillon pressured Bishop Manuel Moreno, who was bishop of Tucson, Ariz., from 1982-2003, to allow a priest sex abuser to take a pension and work outside the diocese, despite allegations that would later jolt the diocese and cost millions to resolve. Fr Robert Trupia "sexually abused dozens of minor boys" before he was defrocked in 2004, according to documents in the civil case.

From letters between them, it looks like Bishop Moreno tried to remove a threat to the flock even though he was threatened with financial consequences by Castrillon Hoyos and widening scandal by the cagey Rev Trupia.

Calling himself a "loose cannon" in a letter to Moreno, [Trupia] threatened to reveal that he had had a sexual relationship with a bishop, now deceased, and that the two of them and a third priest had had sex with a drug addict who was, at the time, a teenager. In exchange for his silence, Trupia, then 42, proposed that he retire with a pension and preserve his priest status. On June 25, 1992, he wrote Moreno: "You have no right, either civilly or canonically or pastorally, to direct me … to seek [psychiatric] evaluation." Trupia filed an appeal with Congregation for Clergy, which in 1992 was headed by Cardinal Jose Sánchez as prefect. The congregation turned down the appeal but downgraded the bishop's order to an administrative leave, rather than suspension.

. . .

Castrillon succeeded Sánchez as prefect of the Congregation for Clergy. Although the case was tied up in the Signatura. Castrillon asserted his own authority as prefect on Dec. 13, 1996, and wrote Moreno "to ask you to resolve this matter by means of a 'reasonable solution.'" Castrillon underlined a phrase for emphasis:

“We strongly urge Your Excellency to enter into meaningful dialogue with Monsignor Trupia regarding the terms of solution he has proposed. In so doing, Your Excellency would also be well advised … that the matter of damages is not outside of the purview of any subsequent decision which may be rendered." (Emphasis in the original.)

It is a sad, sordid tale of a bishop who tried to do the right thing only to be forced by a Vatican directive to continue supporting the career and lifestyle of a manipulative, sexual abuser. It is certainly hard not to feel sympathy for Bishop Moreno. I feel far worse, however, for the "dozens" of children Father Trupia molested.

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