Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rape Apology, State Department Style

The Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church have been at the center of a global maelstrom of outrage as their decades old conspiracies to hide a world-wide campaign of rape and child abuse at the hands of its minions has collapsed. Faced with angry believers who are cutting back on donations and often abandoning the Church altogether, the Holy See struggles to minimize and evade what historians may one day consider Catholicism's death blow.

Throughout it all, the United States government and state and local regimes have largely remained quiet on the matter. Local and state law enforcement have conducted investigations into specific cases. Individual priests have been tried and convicted. A few states have rewritten legal statues to allow victims of predator Catholic clergy more time to bring their victimizers to justice. However, there has been no large-scale investigations or seizures of evidence one would expect in an international sex abuse scandals. One cannot image a corporation or even a nation- state receiving the kid-glove treatment the American government has extended the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church.

Recently released State Department cables provide a partial explanation into the American government attitude toward the matter. Despite being heavily redacted on national security grounds, the cables reveal that the American government has been tracking the scandals, the Vatican reaction to them, and has adopted a policy of downplaying and minimizing the native Vatican rape culture with combination of silence, evasion, and the promotion of Catholic Church good works.

Below are four cables classified “Secret” meaning their unauthorized disclosure was believed to pose the risk of “grave damage” to American national security. This is the second highest level of classification used by the American government (Top Secret is the highest). Much of them is redacted on the grounds that the information contained within is properly classified. Only a few redactions are on the grounds of personal privacy. The cables were released to me in response to a FOIA request I had submitted on my behalf relating to the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals.

The most important things revealed in these cables is the State Department's decision to downplay and minimize the scope and horror of the Catholic Church rape scandals. EMBASSY Vatican's “Suggested Press Guidance”

  1. (U) To the extent possible, it would be best for USG spokespersons to avoid commenting on the scandal or on day-to-day developments related to the crisis. However, if pressed, Embassy Vatican plans to use the following guidance in responding to questions on the crisis or on the Pope's pastoral letter:
    • Sexual abuse of anyone, anywhere, is abhorrent. It is especially troubling when allegations of abuse concern anyone who works in a position of trust with young people.
    • The highest priority when dealing with such allegations is to support the victims, including taking actions to prevent further abuses.
      Here is where the State Department descends into rape apology
    • It is important to distinguish between the atrocities committed by a few individuals and the great good being done by Catholic clergy and members of religious orders around the world.
The final bit of press guidance is statement that beyond the three listed actions the Embassy Vatican staff will only mention the Pope's call for a “process of repentance, healing and renewal” and refuse further comment on the matter except to express their “hope that all parties in this situation find healing and justice.”

Do not let the title “Suggested Press Guidance” fool you; these actions were already being implemented by Embassy Vatican. The paragraph prior to the one I just quoted states:

It's also critically important to refrain from tarring all Catholic clergy with the same brush, even in the face of lurid and graphic reporting on these cases. For every ordained person involved in such atrocities, there are hundreds or thousands of others elsewhere carrying out there duties, often in dangerous circumstances, to support their own and other faith communities. Sister Marie Claude Naddaf of Syria, a longtime campaigner against human trafficking and 2010 International Women of Courage Award Recipient, is one example. Father John Phuong Dinh Toai of Vietnam, who is doing interfaith work helping children infecting (sic) with HIV/AIDS, is another. Meanwhile, Catholic organizations – according to UN estimates-- provide the majority of health care services in sub-Saharan Africa. The list could, of course, go on.

Under the Catholic Church's auspices, a lot of good is accomplished. There is no denying it. However, this does not excuse the Catholic Church's tolerance of rape conspiracies around the globe involving thousands of direct perpetrators and thousands more, including the highest levels of the Vatican, who covered it up. Not to mention the bystanders who were aware of this and did nothing, possibly while engaging in good will acts like those discussed above.

Many rapists are nice people. Rapists have jobs. Rapists are usually good boys. They usually, if not almost always, do the right thing. Except when they rape.

Another cable, 10 VATICAN 59 shows the “ Suggested Press Guidance” was infected at least a month later when it is reported in paragraph 13 that the Ambassador and DCM were refusing interview requests form media programs such as Sixty Minutes, Good Morning America, and Larry King.

Disturbingly, the cables reveal that the Embassy Vatican was reporting on the activities of Americans, specifically SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests). Much of what was reported on SNAP has been redacted on B(1) grounds specifically protection of sources and foreign government information, but is known that Embassy Vatican informed state and numerous other American consulates and embassies about a March 25, 2010 protest at St. Peter's basilica.

I have contacted SNAP for their response to this information and to gain more insight into the protest. Any response will be posted in a future post.

Given the cables are posted below, I am not going to deluge with all the fun tidbits revealed within them. Below are the three most interesting bits of information to come out of this FOIA release:

  1. Paragraph 11 of 10 VATICAN 59 reveals that one of the reasons priests are kept celebate is to save money. Priests with families cost more than those without attachments.
  2. In the first paragraph of 10 VATICAN 59, the American Embassy describes the Vatican's reaction to the sex abuse scandal as being handled “very poorly.”
  3. The second paragraph of 10 VATICAN 59 reveals that a Norweigan bishop was removed not for mismanagement as was widely believed, but because it was discovered he had abused an underage boy. 

    10 Vatican 33                                                            

    10 Vatican 44                                                            

    10 Vatican 57                                                            

    10 Vatican 59                                                            

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