« I no longer believe in the ability of the ecclesial institution to deliver justice in criminal matters »

The recent revelations concerning the sexual assaults committed by Michel Santier make me feel deeply nauseated. This feeling is provoked both by the acts committed by this man in the context of his sacramental ministry as a priest – this perversion of grace and mercy is a real sin against the Holy Spirit – but also by this disproportion in the imposition of weak sanctions for such serious acts, which in other times would have been sanctioned by excommunication.

Canonical justice has shown itself over the last few decades to be incapable of judging these numerous heinous crimes. I no longer believe, and I weigh my words, in the capacity of the ecclesial institution to dispense justice in criminal matters. This is why I always encourage the victims who consult me ​​to first turn to men’s justice.

The Catholic institution has failed terribly

Canon law is often used to defend the powerful against the weak, whereas the purpose of law is to protect the weak from the strong. If civil law concerns the relationship between individuals, criminal law concerns the relationship between society and individuals. Criminal law in its application says how a society understands and protects the fundamental values ​​of living together. This is where the Catholic institution has failed terribly. Canonical penal practice reflects an understanding of ecclesial living together where clerics and in particular bishops reign as absolute masters.

Even if the sovereign pontiff tried to infuse a new spirit, canonical penal law is administered by men of the Church who too often still prefer to protect the institution than the People of God. Even recently in the case of the accusations against Cardinal Ouellet, the Vatican showed an inability of the institution to apply its own texts. It is possible to circumvent the law in different ways, for example by perverting it by a fallacious interpretation or even by making sure to appoint people who we know do not have enough skills or who are too partisan of the defense of the institution. These systemic strategies are well known and extremely effective.

A Church that pushes the victims

My old professor of canon law said to me: “If you must have a reason to study canon law, it must be to protect the People of God. » Alas in the system of the Catholic Church, we are far from the mark. It is the ecclesial culture that must change profoundly. It is hearts that must be converted. Too many times, mercy is held up as a standard of Christian virtue, but in fact it only serves to drive the victims deeper into silence and despair.

I am more and more saddened by these many people who can no longer take this situation and decide to leave the Church to survive. My pastor’s heart is deeply wounded by this Church which watches its children leave without moving, or even worse which despises them or accuses them of using this situation as an excuse to flee. I say to my brothers and sisters who leave to finally live: “Do not be afraid, even if the Church did not love you as she should have, God will always be faithful to you. Salvation is also possible outside the Church. »

deep sadness

I still reread today with deep sadness but also as an imperious appeal the book of the prophet Hosea (2, 3-6, 16): “Say to your brothers: ‘My People’, and to your sisters: ‘Beloved’. Accuse your mother, accuse her, for she is no longer my wife, and I am no longer her husband! Let her remove from her face her whoredoms, and from between her breasts, her adulteries. Otherwise, I undress her completely naked, I expose her as on the day of her birth, I make her look like the desert, I reduce her to arid land and I make her die of thirst. For his sons, I will have no tenderness, because they are sons of prostitution. »

But I still dare to have faith in the faithfulness of God who alone can save his Church: “Therefore, my unfaithful wife, I will seduce her, I will lead her to the desert, and I will talk to her heart to heart. »


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