Conti Claim False: every bishop personally answerable to Rome…

Conti Claim False: every bishop personally answerable to Rome...

The print and broadcasting media are all over the Cardinal O’Brien scandal yet again: this time their computers have been switched on by Archbishop Conti, former Archbishop of Glasgow, who claims that Cardinal O’Brien withdrew from a project aimed at publicising allegations of abuse in Scotland, with data on action taken.

The weak link in his claim is the fact that every bishop is answerable directly to the Pope. He has full authority, under the Pope, to act in the best interests of the Faith in his own diocese.

Therefore, each and every bishop in Scotland was and remains free (the few bishops left, that is) to conduct his own audit and publish the findings. It’s disgraceful to make Cardinal O’Brien the scapegoat, so shame on Archbishop Emeritus Conti for choosing to “kick the cardinal” while he’s down.

If, in fact, Cardinal O’Brien chose to withdraw from the “transparency” project for less than honourable reasons, perhaps to cover up his own negligence, as has been suggested in the press today, then shame on him.

But shame, too, on those bishops – like Archbishop Conti – who hide behind the novel structure of a Bishops’ Conference, a body which has absolutely no authority whatsoever, is unscriptural and a break with Catholic Tradition. It bears repeating: every bishop is in charge of his own diocese. He is the one person who is responsible for what happens there. Every bishop is answerable directly to the Pope, and, ultimately, to God. He is not answerable  to any other bishop, nor to any so-called “Bishops’ Conference”.

Thus there is nothing to stop each bishop from publishing his own data on child abuse allegations. Let’s have it then, and the sooner, the better.

36 responses

  1. I suspect that there is more to this than meets the eye. I cannot see how the other Bishops could have been satisfied with the president of the conference obstructing something that they know would come to light in the not-too-distant future. Did they complain to Rome?

    • Augustine,

      The point is – the cardinal didn’t “obstruct” anything. He had no authority over any other bishop. They are peddling this lie that they are all members of a committee with no authority to act on their own. A lie. Do they really think they owe obedience to a brother bishop? For that is all the Cardinal was to them.

      But, even if they are so far deluded as to think they need to wait for orders from the cardinal, where is their personal integrity? Surely, they should have said “Fine, Cardinal – if you have no qualms about keeping your data under wraps, that’s on your conscience. I’m going ahead with publication in…er… Glasgow.”

      Can you imagine the then Archbishop of Glasgow – Mario Conti – saying that?

      Exactly, So why’s he grabbing (forlornly) the high moral ground now?

      • editor,

        If moral high ground was sought by this statement, quite the opposite impression is what one is left with.

        We can all coast along in normal life and have great intentions about how we’d handle this or that; or read the news and pontificate on what we would do/have done in a particular situation. The truth is, when the difficult situations arise only then do you see the moral fibre, of strength, compromise or weakness. Especially when real life is never as black an white as a hypothetical scenario i.e. doing the right thing will have implications on priests/parishes/victims and inevitably cause scandal stoked by a ravenous media.

        Archbishop Conti is taking the approach of saying what he would have done if x, y, z in retrospect, which has the same practical consequence of me saying had I been in Neil Lennon’s shoes I’d have started with Matthews at left back and Stokes up front in Celtic’s European defeat last week.

        Continuing the football analogy, how often will the underperforming players speak out against a manager who has been sacked, kicking him whilst down, a convenient scapegoat for their own failings. Archbishop Conti was, by his own collegial outlook, effectively depute to Cardinal O’Brien for many years, brother bishops for no less than three decades. It smacks of loyal subservience, rather than faithful servitude, to now pronounce wrongdoing on the Cardinal’s part and see no stain on one’s own Teflon coat. In retrospect I’m completely perfect of course, all I need to do I put the ideal theory into daily practice in future…

        • Crossraguel,

          Pity about the football analogy. What I know about football could not only be written on the back of the proverbial postage stamp, but there would still be room to copy the SNP answers to the questions put to them about the consequences of a “YES” to independence vote – if we ever get them, that is. Still I do know who Neil Lennon is – he’s the manager of Rangers, isn’t he? (Kidding! Everybody knows he’s Manager of what’sitcalled team…)

          Yes, of course, “doing the right thing” has “implications”. That’s why not a lot of people are keen on doing the right thing – in almost any area of life.

          But, do you seriously think that the Vatican would discipline a Scots bishop who “goes it alone” and publishes his child-abuse data in response to demands from “the media” or “society” or even – who knows “the laity”? In the current climate, I seriously doubt it.

          Said bishop would merely have to point out that, nice, and even useful as it is to meet with his brother bishops from time to time, and even, if the occasion calls for it, agree various decisions etc. the fact is, he’s his own boss in his own diocese and he’s decided to publish this data.

          What’s to complain about? Who’s going to complain? Or, put another way, which of the bishops is going to risk hitting the headlines for complaining about another bishop publishing this much requested information?

          Name that bishop…

    • Constantine,

      Mzzzzz Deveney seems only to associate with dissident homosexual priests. I’m not sure she’s found her way into the sordid world of child abuse – at least, not yet.

  2. Isn’t this one of the bad fruits of collegiality? This error wasn’t condemned by the Church prior to Vatican II for nothing.

    Archbishop Conti should have said that instead of passing the buck.

    • Petrus,

      I’m really interested in what you say. I don’t think many people know that collegiality was condemned before Vatican II. Can you give me a source for that, as it’s very important indeed.

      I completely agree that all the bishops are responsible for their own dioceses, so there’s nothing to stop them publishing the child abuse allegations.

      I wonder if they would be obtainable using the Freedom of Information Act?

    • Crossraguel,

      Two marks deducted for not paying attention – Josephine had already posted that link.

      But add four marks for writing that (the BBC) “don’t read the bitter pill” – we need to keep highlighting the dissident nature of that awful rag, The Tablet, described on the TV news as “an intellectual Catholic publication”.

      About as intellectual as Coronation Street and about as Catholic as Mgr Basil Loftus.

  3. Might I be excused the temerity of referring to Fr. Simom Henry’s blog – “Offerimus Tibi Domine” – current offering: “From local government – save us O Lord”. Therein, he deals with the inclination of The Pope to de-centralise Mother Church down to local levels. De Jure, as expressed by our esteemed Editor, the line of responsibility, parish-wise, is curate, parish priest, bishop, pope and in Galloway one parish priest went straight to Rome. Also, I think, in the Leeds debacle over a Traditional parish, the priest went to Rome – alas to no avail and he has been rendered itinerant for his trouble – a fine priest nonetheless. De facto, matters are more than somewhat different.

    Not only are the Bishops’ Conferences, and their individual members, hamstrung with collegiality, they also retain The Church equivalent of [lay] political spads – who appear to be quasi-policy-makers. At Diocesan level, the local curia appear to be hand-in-glove with clergy associations, outside of which the lone priest is defenceless. Then we have the lay-professionals employed by a diocese. Remember the furore when both +Davies and +Egan sought to wrest control of Shrewsbury and Portsmouth respectively.

    Anyone breaking ranks is ostracised. At ‘Conference’ level, the likes of +++Murphy O’Connor and +++O’Brien, were given the final say. Who knows what back-stabbing and threats were wielded behind the scenes.

    What a mess.

    • Sixupman,

      Temerity excused.

      I’ve had a lay man on the phone a couple of times recently (last time, yesterday) lamenting the problem of lay employees in the Church here in Scotland. He sums it up beautifully, just by asking how on earth these men and women can sleep at night, knowing that they are complicit in the destruction of the Church in Scotland. Some of them, I’m told, consider themselves to be orthodox and even (I’ve heard) support Catholic Truth – although of that I am not fully convinced. I mean, could anyone actually read and like our newsletter and then settle down to be part of the very problem we are exposing? Gimme a break. Gerragrip. Etc.

      I’ve covered the “ostracised” business in my reply to Crossraguel above – at least in terms of this case of the bishops not publishing their data on child abuse allegations because Cardinal O’Brien withdrew. See my “which bishop will complain?” (Archbishop Conti or Bishop A.N. Other “goes it alone”)

      “What a mess” you say, Sixupman. “What a mess”?

      You trying to be funny? “What a mess”?

      You ought to write the book on understatement…

  4. A big Cardinal done it and ran away. Talk about kicking the scapegoat when he’s down…

    Even if what Archbishop Conti says is true, it is not gentlemanly to make accusations about somone who cannot answer back. He does not get the moral high ground in my view..

    • Eileenanne,

      We agree on that – Archbishop Conti definitely does not get the high moral ground. You and I agreeing, Eileenanne – history is made!

      I wonder if you also agree with me that – difficult though it would have been for Archbishop Conti (or any other bishop) to act on his own initiative in this matter of publishing their own diocesan audit of child abuse allegations and action taken – that is what the Archbishop should have done. Instead of doing what he’s now doing – which is to blame the Cardinal.

      What thinkest thou?

      • I couldn’t agree more. THAT would have been the way to get the moral high ground.

        As a wee aside – I think some people might be disappointed to see how thin those files are, if and when they are made public. (I don’t have any inside information – just another of my hunches,)

        • Once again, we agree about “those files” – and nor do I have any inside info on this. Not a lot of child-abusers read and approve of Catholic Truth (I hope – if you know what I mean!)

  5. As I understand it, post Vatican II, the “Spirit of Vatican II” has indicated not a hierarchical Church but a democratic one wherein the Episcopal Conferences decisions are made by the majority. If all the bishops except Cardinal O’Brien voted to have the audit, he would be out-voted and the audit would have gone ahead. So……..
    Hannah

    • Hannah,

      A very good point indeed. Since the bishops seem to want to turn the Church into a democracy, what you outline should have taken place. That fact that it didn’t might indicate that Archbishop Conti & his brother bishops were only too glad of an excuse not to publish their data, however thin the files may be (and I believe the allegations/clergy involved will be shown to be few in number, although I’m not quite so confident that the correct action will have been taken by the bishops.)

  6. One thing I have noticed about the Church in Scotland is that the clergy and hierarchy seem to think the grass-roots laity are thick, and they treat us like children. Or at least this is how I have perceived it.

    This kind of thing makes the Church look like an old boys club, and I can imagine the ordinary faithful feel very alienated. This is how I have felt for a while.

    In the olden days, the average Father Ted shenanigans would have been enough to cause great scandal. It is sad that those who have kept the faith are now so desensitised to ecclesiastical smut, and since the ‘Man’ knows that, and he’s pushing the limits as time goes on. In the opinion of simple irreligious members of society the Catholic Church has lost all moral credibilityl.

    Whenever I complained about these kinds of things to priests in the past they would tell me not to worry about it, it wasn’t my business, there is a massive secular media conspiracy behind it all, and really everything is actually just fine.

    The more sensitive priests would say, well the Church is made of men etc.. But the crisis we find ourselves can’t just be blamed in human frailty can it?

    • Don’t Tell the Muffin Man – that’s some username! I hope you don’t mind if I shorten it to “Muffin Man” or even “MM”: object now, or forever hold your peace!

      You are absolutely correct – the clerical scandals we are witness have nothing whatsoever to do with “human frailty”.

      There’s nothing “human” about abusing children or covering it up. That’s “diabolical” not human.

      And the same is true of the overall crisis, as you remark. It’s not to be blamed on human frailty; human respect, yes, and a multitude of other character weaknesses, but we don’t lose our Faith through “human frailty”. We might lose our temper through human frailty, or feel tempted to buy a so-called Catholic newspaper through human frailty (!) But in order to lose our Faith, we have to be either neglectful or pro-active in evil. Did I say “neglect”? That might be neglect of prayer, failing to educate ourselves so that we know where the truth lies – the Mass “debate” is a key example, as is the truth about the extent and limits of papal authority, and so on – in order to safeguard the integrity of our Catholic Faith.

      Being pro-active in evil might be any number of activities that endanger our Faith but – to stick with the contemporary obsession – if we are illicitly indulging our sensual/sexual appetites, then we will, without a doubt, put our Faith at risk. Obviously, to sin and repent and be absolved (with all that that means – firm purpose of amendment, not to commit those sins again) sets us back on track, but in the case of those who really do not consider themselves to be sinning, that leads to loss of Faith or rather the two are so intertwined it’s really a chicken and egg situation. Hence, I’ve frequently, commented that when the Faith goes, the morals quickly follow…

      Which is why I’ve said often in our newsletter that for our Bishops to be so far removed from the truths of our Faith and from carrying out their episcopal duty to protect and promote it (as opposed to promoting false religions and tolerating dissent/heresy) then there has to be something wrong in their personal lives. More than once I’ve said that I find it difficult to accept that they even believe in God. I had no idea that Cardinal O’Brien would prove me right so unexpectedly at the very end of his days in office, and that with blazing headlines!

      So, you are right Muffin Man. “The crisis (in which) we find ourselves can’t just be blamed on human frailty.” Spot on.

  7. I haven’t been able to go online recently and when the news broke about Arch. Conti’s letter my first reaction was: how awful to kick the Cardinal when he’s down and cannot answer back. This was followed by the though: what a spineless and honour-less bunch of Bishops. It doesn’t say much for their integrity that they were willing to shut up rather than step out of line. This is collegiality gone mad.

  8. Here’s today’s Scotland on Sunday on the case (with Eddie Barnes getting his info about the concerned laity from this here blog, methinks – not a lot of people elsewhere today would even know that each bishop could act independently of the other bishops).

    I suspect the new Archbishop of St Andrew’s & Edinburgh is in for a stormy time: can’t see any honeymoon period in the offing, reading this report today.

    • Not outwith the realms of possibility that this blog has been referenced in penning the article, albeit the ‘academic’ Draper quoted appears to have contributed at least similar comments as those above. Either way, heartening to see the mainstream media reporting the truth more clearly than would almost any Catholic publication these days.

  9. Just came across this press release on the SCMO website:

    http://www.scmo.org/articles/safeguarding-procedures-within-the-catholic-church-in-scotland.html

    A couple of observations:

    Archbishop Conti apparently writes with the approval of Archbishop Tartaglia/the current hierarchy, given the endorsement of the media office (or the SCMO attempts to clarify his remarks);

    There is a complete change of emphasis from Peter Kearney, taking the matter to June 2013 rather than back into the Cardinal’s tenure. By consequence are we talking of this audit going back even to 2006, let alone 1999 and beyond?

    Confused, Aberdeen

  10. And what of the documents in the Catholic Archives? Conveniently posted off up to Aberdeen-Edinburgh searches-slightly delayed then !!!! Now how are they to be catalogued! Which moldy old university basement are they to be-stored?

    • Tom, you are right. The fiasco about the archives in the Scottish press was an embarrassment, even more so now with these promises of transparency re child abuse allegations. I’ll believe it all only when I see it.

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