John Allen Carries Pope’s Water

As previously noted, John Allen, the editor of CRUX, struggled to explain the Vatican’s recent cease and desist order to U.S. Bishops (John Allen on Pope’s Cease and Desist Order). Now he tells us that the Vatican did so to prevent the bishops from violating canon law. Allen adds that the Vatican is also upset about the proposed review board. But his story changes in suspicious ways.

Mr. Allen previously told us the Vatican did not have enough time to read and evaluate the bishops’ proposals. But now he tells us they not only had enough time to read the proposals, they had enough time to do a legal analysis of them and pronounce them guilty of violating Canon Law. Apparently Mr. Allen didn’t notice the contradiction.

Mr. Allen also failed to explain why the Vatican decided to preempt the vote. Why not allow a vote and then judge any proposals that are approved. This is the normal procedure. This would allow time for the Vatican’s canon lawyers to talk to the bishops’ canon lawyers. Keep in mind that the bishops almost certainly had their proposals reviewed and approved by canon lawyers - something else Mr. Allen failed to mention.

In the United States and ellsewhere, the court never preempts a vote. If Congress passes a law the Supreme Court regards as unconstitutional, the court rejects the law. The court also explains why the law is unconstitutional and often suggests how to fix it. The Vatican failed to explain how the proposals violated Canon Law. But if the Vatican preempted the bishops’ vote for violations of Canon Law – as they told Mr. Allen – they must have determined exactly how the proposals violated it. But they provided no explanation and no suggestions. This seems irresponsible if not perverse. I suspect the Vatican used canon law as an excuse, and never did any detailed legal analysis.

While John Allen talked about Canon Law, other details he provided suggest something else:

“Critics worried that the proposed commission for instance, would cede a dubious amount of authority to its six lay and three clergy members, giving them a sort of joint power of supervision with the pope. Others were concerned that the commission, which was to be set up as a separate 501(c)3 non-profit corporation funded by dioceses directly rather than the conference, would be essentially unaccountable.”

Both of these conditions involve the Vatican’s loss of control. The Vatican has grown increasingly fond of micromanaging bishops and priests. Furthermore, the Vatican could not dictate to lay members of a committee. Granted, the Church would select lay members who were devout Catholics and would almost reflexively submit to papal suggestions. But they would not be legally bound to obey, and that apparently troubles the Vatican. The same applies to the 501(c) corporation. The Church hand picks the board, but the board is legally independent – thus “essentially unaccountable.”

While Pope Francis frequently pontificates about transparency, he does his best to prevent it. Releasing the data on child abuse would reveal that bishops are widely involved in concealing abuse, and far more concerned with protecting abusive priests than victims - past or prospective. Not only is this “clericalism,” another matter Pope Francis rails about. It is criminal behavior, and it has been going on for decades. Furthermore, the pattern of misconduct is universal, as it has been directed by the Vatican, the clerics in chief.


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