F Rosa Rubicondior: Moral Compass - The Catholic Church and Excommunication

Saturday 28 March 2015

Moral Compass - The Catholic Church and Excommunication

Fr. Jose Mercau, Excommunicated
Last November, Pope Francis defrocked and excommunicated a convicted paedophile priest from Argentina. Of course, many priests have been excommunicated by the Catholic Church before, but the case of Fr. Jose Mercau was unusual; he is one of the only Catholic priests to have been excommunicated for sexual abuse (technically rape) of a minor.

Pope Francis was apparently trying to convince the world that the Catholic Church had recognised the error of its ways and would no longer tolerate, facilitate and protect priests and nuns who abused children and vulnerable adults and now took a dim view of these previously accepted clerical recreational pass-times.

Excommunicating a child-raping priest is unusual for another reason too - the Catholic Church doesn't regard rape as an especially serious crime and certainly not one worthy of excommunication. In fact, whilst having, procuring, participating in or performing an abortion following a rape are all grounds for automatic excommunication, all a rapist need do is confess his crime to a priest in confidence, say some magic spells, and all is forgiven.

The full list of 'sins' which will result in automatic excommunication under the 1983 Code of Canon Law (CIC) is:

SinDescriptionCIC Ref.
Apostasy, heresy or schismApostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith (in other words becoming an Atheist, Agnostic or convert to another faith or flavour of Christianity).

Heresy is the obstinate doubt or denial, after baptism, of a defined Catholic doctrine (in other words, not toeing the party line and thinking for yourself).

Schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or the refusal to be in communion with members of the Church who are in communion with him (in other words not accepting the Pope as lord and master and obeying his commands).
CIC 1364:1
Violating the sacred species (sic)Violation of the sacred species is the throwing away the consecrated species of Christ's body or blood or the taking or retaining of them for a sacrilegious purpose (in other words, throwing away the stale wafer and cheap wine the church pretends is the real body and blood of Jesus that Catholics are supposed to eat and drink in a ritualised act of cannibalism).CIC 1367
Physically attacking the PopeSelf-explanatory but note the Pope's recent declaration that punching people who insult your faith is permissible. A case of do unto others but don't do it unto me.CIC 1370:1
Sacramentally absolving an accomplice in a sexual sinIn other words, a priest blaming his victim then letting them off if they say some magic spells. It's not the blaming of the victim that triggers the excommunication but the letting off. Blaming a victim is just fine.CIC 1378:1
Consecrating a bishop without authorizationSelf-explanatory.CIC 1382
Directly violating the seal of confessionA direct violation of the seal of confession is one in which both the penitent and the penitent's sin can easily be determined by the confessor's words or behavior, but only if someone sees him do it and works out what the sin was and who he let off.CIC 1388:1
Having, procuring or knowingly participating in an abortionApplies not only to the woman who has the abortion, but to "all those who commit this crime with knowledge of the penalty attached, and includes those accomplices without whose help the crime would not have been committed" (Evangelium Vitae 62)CIC 1398

Note how none of these has anything to do with harming the health or welfare of another person or abusing power and authority. The ban on abortion has no exceptions, even to save the life of the mother, so it's not possible to argue that this is something to do with the 'sanctity' of life or even to protect the future welfare of the mother. It simply isn't.

The suspicion is that the ban on abortion, like the ban on contraception, is to maintain the numbers and to keep people in poverty because the Church knows as well as anyone that hopelessly poor people are more likely to look to religion to offer hope where there is none and to rely on the Church for welfare. The Church is assiduously maintaining conditions where people have to rely on the Church for a little relief from those very conditions, and then presents itself as a charitable organisation concerned for the welfare of poor people. The Church sees no immorality in this.

All these things that the Catholic Church deems most serious are to do with the power and authority of the Church and its clerics. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the welfare or wellbeing of people. There is nothing about child abuse, rape, assault, denial of human rights, victimisation, exploitation, discrimination or racism. Even genocide doesn't warrant automatic excommunication.

Victims of Nazism, Bergen-Belsen, 15 April 1945.
Nothing to excommunicate anyone for there - Vatican
And this is why excommunicating a paedophile priest is such a rarity, whilst a Brazilian mother and the doctor who performed an abortion on an under-age girl who had been raped were both summarily excommunicated and the girl herself only escaped it because church law forbids excommunication of a minor. Her rapist, of course, faced no sanction from the Catholic Church save only being required to mutter some magic spells to have his sin counter reset to zero, if indeed he ever confessed.

By contrast, the only member of the German Nazi High Command to be excommunicated was Herman Goering, not for the sin of having organised the industrial-scale genocide of 6,000,000 Jews and 5,000,000 other people including Romani, Poles, Disabled, Homosexuals, Soviet POWs, and other assorted people the Nazis disliked, but for marrying a divorced Protestant. Killing tens of millions of people came nowhere near comparing to that heinous crime, according to the Vatican, just as the systematic abuse of children by priests comes nowhere near the crime of procuring an abortion for an under-age rape victim, in the eyes of the Catholic Church leadership.

How on Earth did these repugnant people ever come to believe they were the ultimate authority on right and wrong and should be deferred to on all matters of ethics and morality?

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  1. Utter moral bankruptcy in a global religious institution is a hideous thing.

  2. "none of these has anything to do with harming the health or welfare of another person or abusing power and authority."

    While I think the list has shocking inclusions and exclusions, your statement is not fair.

    * harming the health or welfare of another person: Physically attacking the Pope, Directly violating the seal of confession
    * abusing power and authority: schism, Sacramentally absolving an accomplice in a sexual sin, Consecrating a bishop without authorization

    There's no need to exaggerate, when opposing the Catholic church. Their record is appalling.

    1. Yes, you're right about attacking the Pope being an assault, I had overlooked that.

      I'n not so sure that violation of the seal of confession is so much intended to protect the welfare of the penitent as to protect the confidence of the confessional though. As for those abuses of power and authority, I wasn't so much thinking of those, which only harm the church, so much as abusing the power and authority priest have over their parishioners, especially the young and vulnerable ones, and the power bishops have to cover up these abuses and avoid compensating the victims.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Your unqualified quack medical advice was unwanted and unwelcome, as well as irelevent.


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