Following the recent grilling of Vatican officials by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Nicole Winfield and John Heilprin of AP published a report stating that, in his last two years of papal ministry, Pope Benedict defrocked 400 priests who had abused minors. After the release of this report, a comedy of errors ensued; it's documented by postings of John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter website:
1. The Vatican media spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, denied the AP report.
2 The Vatican then quickly retracted its denial.
3. And John Allen published a post mortem of the denial-retraction, noting that AP reporters had winkled the data about priests defrocked by Benedict out of a spreadsheet prepared by Bishop Charles Scicluna for the UN hearing, and "apparently obtained by the AP" after the UN hearing.
I am strongly inclined to agree with the responses to the AP report by Barbara Dorris and David Clohessy of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. Barbara writes,
Numbers don't protect kids. Decisive action protects kids. Parents, police, prosecutors and parishioners need the names and whereabouts of every child molesting Catholic cleric. That's the information that the Vatican should be making public.
This is a decades-late drop in bucket. Defrocking predator priests is less about safeguarding kids. It's more about church damage control.
Though John Allen's post mortem denies that there's any "grand conspiracy" in the two-step the Vatican did when the AP report was released, I remain suspicious of the timing of this release of information that is, as David Clohessy rightly notes, a drop in the bucket--and which falls far short of the full release of data that survivors have been asking of Catholic officials for over a decade now. The timing of this release of information, and its strange leaking to AP, strike me as more than a little convenient.
The release comes right after the Vatican refused altogether to provide the UN committee with the full range of data on abusive priests that the committee had requested as part of its hearing. And it comes on the heels of testimony by two Vatican officials that, as one incisive commentator after another is noting, was spectacularly evasive--testimony which denies that the Vatican has any control at all over what bishops do in their individual dioceses.
When we all know the opposite is true, and that the Vatican tightly controls the actions of bishops throughout the world.
Thanks to Bilgrimage reader evagrius for providing a link to the AP report following my posting on Friday about the UN hearing.
The video: Shaun Tratuman and Nicole Frye show you how to do the two-step. Of which the Vatican dance is a variation, I think . . . .