Thursday, December 11, 2008


A story at WiscNews.com, linked by New Oxford Review, has me wondering just what might be in this book given that bishops have been known to cover up information that they think would damage the Church:

Members of the Catholic faithful who have copies of the book by suspended local priest Father Gerald Vosen should destroy or return them because a chapter describes proceedings of his church tribunal on child sexual assault allegations that should be kept secret, church officials announced last week.

Bishop of the Madison Diocese Robert C. Morlino issued a letter Dec. 1 stating Vosen's book, "Pick a Number: Stories of Faith," details actions by church authorities after abuse allegations were made against Vosen in 2003. The church proceedings are under "Pontifical secret" for the protection of Vosen and others involved in them, Morlino wrote.

"Baptized Catholics or those who have made a profession of faith who purchase Fr. Vosen's book are at risk of participating in this breach of the Pontifical Secret," Morlino writes in his statement.

In Chapter 51, "The Day the Music Died," Vosen describes his thoughts and feelings during church officials' examination of abuse allegations he says are unfounded and says the officials were uncritical in their acceptance of alleged victims' testimony.

A church body ruled against him and Vosen is now awaiting a response after appealing his case to the Catholic hierarchy in Rome.

Catholics who have purchased the book before the bishop's announcement or without knowing the book breached church secrecy are not liable for any wrongdoing under church law, Morlino wrote. However, "Once informed, continued support of Fr. Vosen's book may result in a canonical crime being declared on the individual involved," the statement continues.

Morlino is not my bishop. Since bishops can make rules for their diocese that don't impact the laity in other dioceses, I don't suppose there is any problem with deciding to read it provided a Catholic doesn't live in Morlino's jurisdiction. That's just a technicality that comes to mind because of the way obligation to attend Mass on a holy day is determined.

The bigger picture involves cover-up. Since the argument given for not reading the book--"church proceedings are under Pontifical secret "for the protection of Vosen and others involved in them"--didn't deter Vosen from writing the book and having it published, the argument is weak. Apparently Vosen doesn't think he needs to be protected in this way. There must be "others" who do think they need protection. Who might that be? A bishop one wonders?

I thought we were done with secrets, but apparently not. Heirarchical credibility compromised yet again. But hey...that's just my opinion, and my opinion counts for nothing more than the paper it's written on, as the laity has come to understand during the unfolding of the scandal.

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