Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Attorney Daniel Shea and Co: Liberal agenda to discredit Pope Benedict XVI? Part I.

Is Attorney Daniel Shea of Houston part of a conspiracy to discredit Pope Benedict XVI? In an article entitled "Lawyer seeks to hold Pope accountable for abuse cover-up" published by the Irish and which may be found at the archives section of (June 20, 2005 edition), readers are told that attorney Shea wants to question Pope Benedict XVI because of the document Crimen solicitationis which he believes constitutes a "ground plan" for "covering up" the crime of sexual abuse of minors by clerics.

Now, a statement developed by staff and consultants of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and which was reviewed by the Chairman of the Committee for Canonical Affairs, has already addressed this issue quite comprehensively. That response to those who would take the document Crimen solicitationis out of context and distort it completely may be found here:

Attorney Shea, who apparently is allergic to objectivity, has made some rather odd comments in the past regarding the Catholic Church. On one occasion, this attorney wrote me an e-mail in which he wrote that the Church, " a criminal institution and those who contribute to it any longer are aiding and abetting this criminal conduct called obstruction of justice."

On another occasion, he asserted that I "..seem to be blinded by the ability of Ratzinger and Co. to engage in an international conspiracy to obstruct justice." But the story doesn't end here. Attorney Shea is apparently good friends with (or at least working with) the Rev. Thomas Doyle, O.P., formerly a canon lawyer at the Vatican's Washington embassy and now an Air Force chaplain in Germany. Rev. Doyle has received the "Priest of Integrity" award from the dissident group "Voice of the Faithful" (VOTF).

In an e-mail which attorney Shea sent to various individuals on his e-mail mailing list including Rev. Richard P. McBrien the dissident moral theologian at Notre Dame; Mr. David Clohessy, who has served as the National Director of SNAP (the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) ; Attorney Carmen Durso and Worcester Telegram & Gazette reporter Kathy Shaw among others, and which was a fascimile of a letter written to Thomas F. Reilly, the Attorney General of Massachusetts, Mr. Shea writes: "Reference is made to my letter to you of March 1, 2002 in which I enclosed a May 18, 2001 'Letter to All Bishops of the Catholic Church....' I stated that it appeared to me to be a clear and universal instruction to obstruct justice by an official of the Vatican City State, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. I stand by that characterization for the reasons that follow.

The Ratzinger letter expresses that it is an update to an instruction 'Crimen Sollicitationes,...issued...on March 16, 1962 in force until now [May 18, 2001].' It has taken Father Thomas Doyle and me the ensuing year to find this document. The delay can be attributed to its prefacing statement 'servanda diligenter in archivo secreto curiae pro norma interna non publicanda nec ullis comentarriis augenda,' translated in the enclosed as 'This text is to be diligently stored in the secret archives of the Curia [of each diocese] as strictly confidential. Nor is it to be published nor added to with any commentaries.' A careful study of the text reveals the motive behind the secrecy.

With respect to the crime of pederasty, referred to by Cardinal Law under oath as something only historically considered a 'sin,' refer to par. 73 of Crimen which refers to the 'worst crime with penal effects' as 'any obscene, external act, gravely sinful, perpetrated in any way by a cleric or attempted by him with youths of either sex or with brute animals (bestiality).' Elsewhere in the document it is characterized as an 'unspeakable crime.' And lest Bernard Law think there is no grounds here for perjury, let him be reminded that the Roman Catholic Church has been using the different terms crimen for crime, and peccata for sin for untold centuries and further, that Sacrum Poenitentiae of Benedict XIV has been on the books since June 1, 1741."

But attorney Shea misses the point. Crimen deals exclusively with ecclesiastical crimes and punishments which are found in Church Law. The document, as staff and consultants of the USCCB stated clearly, "..outlines procedures for addressing ecclesiastical crimes which have already been designated publicly as such in the 1917 Code of Canon Law (see its canons 2359 and 2368). It treats these crimes very seriously and repeats the penalties for them. The penalties include dismissal from the clerical state. The 1962 document has no bearing on civil law. It does not forbid the civil reporting of civil crimes. Confidentiality, in the past and today, is often required in court procedures, including civil court procedures, for a variety of reasons - including not unnecessarily impugning a person's good name, the protection of the young or victims of assault, etc. In addition, the special nature of the crime of solicitation in the confessional (the most confidential forum of all), to which the document is mainly dedicated, has to be taken into account. The allegation of committing this crime is most serious since the accused priest cannot break the 'seal of confession' to defend himself. Investigation of confessional matters must be done most delicately to protect the confidentiality of the sacrament of penance, and the rights and dignity of both the accused and the accuser."

Boston attorney Carmen L. Durso has also argued that Crimen may prove that the Catholic Church has been "obstructing justice." Durso was quoted by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette as having said that "This document [Crimen] may provide the link in the thinking of all of those who hid the truth for so many years." The newspaper also quoted him as having told a federal attorney that, "The constant admonitions that information regarding accusations against priests are to be deemed 'a secret of the Holy Office' may explain, but most certainly do not justify, their actions."

However, according to canon law experts, Crimen Sollicitationis dealt with canonical cases against a priest that could lead to removal from ministry or expulsion from the priesthood. Its imposition of secrecy therefore concerned the Church's internal disciplinary process. It did not prevent a Bishop or anyone else from reporting a crime perpetrated against a minor to the civil authorities. Oblate Father Francis Morrisey of St. Paul University in Ottawa explained to the NCR that, "The document was so secret that it couldn't even be mentioned..I'm inclined to believe that most bishops were unaware of its existence and contents until a situation arose..Of course, a bishop couldn't use this document cover up denunciation of an act of sexual abuse, the document simply wasn't made for that purpose."

Attorney Shea, disregarding what Canon Law experts have said time and again, is still insisting that Crimen is evidence of an attempt by the Catholic Church to cover-up crimes perpetrated against minors and that it is also evidence of an "international conspiracy." However, recalling the old dictum "You are known by the company you keep," we might justifiably ask "Is attorney Shea part of a conspiracy to discredit Pope Benedict XVI as well as the legacy of Pope John Paul II?

After all, his e-mail mailing list includes a moral theologian who is well-known for his dissent on various Church teachings, a reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette who seems well-motivated in her efforts to write about abuse committed by priests and who contributes frequently to her newspaper's "church in crisis" feature, the National Director of SNAP (which may hardly be described as "magisterial catholic" and which often rails against the Church while promoting dissent groups such as VOTF) and such notables as attorney Carmen Durso who, it would seem, has already convicted the Church in his own mind as has attorney Shea.

More to come.....

Paul Anthony Melanson

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