Friday, June 5, 2020

After the Acquittals: Half-Audience for Barbarin None for Pell

(Rome) Last Friday, May 29th, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin was received by Pope Francis. It was the first meeting between the head of the church and the purple bearer since his acquittal by the court, where he was charged with covering up sexual abuse by a priest who is now a layman. It was not an audience for the cardinal. The second acquitted cardinal, the Australian George Pell, is also waiting to be received by Francis and thus rehabilitated. However, neither seems to have been intended and desired by Rome in either case.

No return despite acquittal. Two cardinals have so far been brought to justice in connection with the sexual abuse scandal: Cardinal Barbarin for cover-up and Cardinal Pell for sexual abuse. An unprecedented situation in the history of criminal law. Both were acquitted after several years of proceedings and media prejudice. Pope Francis' attitude towards both remained ambivalent. Even after the acquittals, there was no direct audience, which would be a visible sign of their rehabilitation.
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, born in 1950, was ordained a priest in 1977 for the Diocese of Créteil, a suffragan diocese of the Archdiocese of Paris. He worked in pastoral care until 1994 and then went to Madagascar as a fidei donum for four years, where he taught theology at the seminary in Fianarantsoa. In 1998 Pope John Paul II appointed him Bishop of Moulins and in 2002 Archbishop of Lyon, who is also a primate of Gaul. In October 2003 he was created a cardinal as Roman title Church is the famous Trinity Church Santissima Trinità dei Monti at the top of the Spanish Steps. He participated several times in the March for Life, which has been held in Paris since 2005. He rebuilt the course curriculum at the seminary in Lyon in a spiritual way. The seminarians have been trained in both forms of the Roman rite since 2010, both in the so-called ordinary form (Novus Ordo) and in the traditional form as it was until the liturgical reform 50 years ago. The Cardinal, who had sought Christian-Islamic dialogue since the 1990s, tried to give a voice to the Christians persecuted in the Islamic world. He therefore visited Tibhirine in Algeria, where several Trappist monks were murdered in 1996, and Christian refugees in Iraq.

The past five years have been overshadowed by the abuse scandal of the now laicized priest Bernard Preynat. In the anti-church climate of the Socialist government of François Hollande (PS), attempts were made to exploit the abuse scandal for an attack against the Catholic Church and to bring the Church to justice in the person of the cardinal. As archbishop, he was charged with not reporting the priest's abuse cases. The preliminary investigation, the indictment and the legal proceedings meant a media-oriented, partly aggressive pre-judgment. On March 7, 2019, the cardinal was found guilty and sentenced to six months in prison. The guilt not only of the archbishop, but of the whole Church and its clergy was considered proven in the published opinion.

The sentence became a millstone for the Primate of Gaul, although no final judgment was available. On March 18, 2019, Cardinal Barbarin was received by Pope Francis in audience. In order to have the opportunity to discuss the situation with the head of the Church, the cardinal had to bring his resignation. Francis rejected this, referring to the presumption of innocence, but had received a blank declaration. The next day, Yves Baumgarten, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Lyon, was entrusted with the archbishop's business. Cardinal Barbarin, who appealed against his conviction, remained nominally in office, but was effectively removed. On June 24, Pope Francis cemented the de facto impeachment by appointing Monsignor Michel Dubost, the emeritus bishop of Evry-Corbeil-Essonnes, as apostolic administrator of Lyon.

On January 30, 2020, Cardinal Barbarin was acquitted in the appeal process. The Court of Appeals dismissed the first instance guilty verdict because the archbishop was under no obligation to report the abuse cases. This obligation applies to underage victims because of their particular need for protection. When the cardinal found out about the cases, the victims were of legal age and were therefore able to report the abuse themselves. The opportunity to indict and pillory the cardinal and the Catholic Church for several years had done serious damage. The loss of reputation cannot be made good by the acquittal, which only took up comparatively little space in media reporting.

In addition, a return to his episcopate was apparently not a conceivable option for Rome or for parts of the Episcopal Conference. This showed the reluctance with which the Vatican responded to the acquittal. Shortly thereafter, the cardinal declared that he could no longer imagine a return to the top of a diocese, but instead wanted to return to pastoral care, perhaps at a place of pilgrimage.

On March 6, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of the cardinal, who was only 69 years old. The Archdiocese is still administered by the 78 year old Mgr. Dubost.

Rome did not provide an audience for the acquitted barbarian, signaling his rehabilitation. It was only five months after the acquittal that an indirect encounter occurred. It was not the cardinal who was received by Francis, but the Association Lazare, an aid organization for the homeless, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The cardinal accompanied them to Rome.

No return despite acquittal II

The second purple bearer, who was brought to trial, is no different. Cardinal George Pell from Australia was even personally accused of sexual abuse. The former Archbishop of Sydney has been Prefect of the Roman Business Secretariat since 2014 and has been a representative of Oceania to the C9 Cardinal Council since 2013 . The Australian media and political groups whipped him as a "pedophile" through the columns of the gazettes and the broadcasting times of radio and television.

Pell was ordained a priest in 1966 for the Diocese of Ballarat, a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. For his studies of philosophy and theology in Melbourne and at the Urbaniana in Rome, Pell did his doctorate in Church history at Oxford, where he was a chaplain at Eton College while studying . Returning to his home diocese, he became director of the Institute of Catholic Education and staff member of the diocesan church newspaper. In 1987 Pope John Paul II appointed him auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. In 1996 he himself climbed into the Archbishop of Melbourne's cathedra. In 2001 he was appointed Archbishop of Sydney and in 2003 he was promoted to Cardinal. His Roman title church is Santa Maria Domenica Mazzarello, a peripheral new building that was consecrated in 1997.
Cardinal Pell innocently spent more than a year in prison
Cardinal Pell was also convicted in first instance in December 2018. In his case, the sentence imposed a few weeks later was not six months but six years. The trial was preceded not only by media prejudice but also by an intrigue against him in the Vatican. The cardinal, deeply disappointed, waived a provisional suspension until the verdict was final and went to prison in 2019. The verdict began to waver at the appeals court. Two judges confirmed it, but one disagreed and submitted a minority opinion. The Australian Supreme Court eventually followed and acquitted Cardinal Pell last April 7. Too many inconsistencies had arisen in the process. The first instance did not provide any logical evidence to support a conviction. The question of how credible the testimony of the only witness, the alleged victim, was not sufficiently assessed by the sentencing judges.

Nevertheless, Cardinal Pell was removed by Francis even before his office was acquitted and partially replaced. As prefect of the Economic Secretariat, the Jesuit Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves has been in office since November 2019, while the Cardinal Council no longer has a representative of Oceania. On June 8, the Cardinal turned 78. He was 72 when the denunciation against him began. In 2013 he was still considered a “papabile.” Despite acquittal, a return to office is not an issue in Rome, not even an audience. It remains to be seen whether and when Francis will be ready to receive the Australian, perhaps at least indirectly and half-hidden like Cardinal Barbarin. Cardinal Pell had been more critical of Francis' pontificate than Cardinal Barbarin in the past. Even out of prison, he warned the Church against some of the objectives contained in the Amazon Synod's working paper.

Santa Marta treats the acquittals like matters that affect two Church officials but are personal in nature. Matters of two Church officials that have already been written off. Just because they are purple bearers, certain considerations are essential. In reality, the action of certain anti-Church circles with them put the Catholic Church on the dock. The Vatican, for whatever reason, ignores this far more public aspect of the two abuse processes.

Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Image: Catholic Register / MiL / (screenshot)
Trans: Tancred

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

After Pell´s acquittal Rome had to throw a bucket of ice by suddenly pushing Female Deacons.