Friday, June 5, 2009

Rev. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, S. J.

Rev. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, S.J. (Society of Jesus)
Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University

Rev. Ghirlanda is 66, born July 5, 1942 in Rome. 1966 doctorate in Jurisprudence from La Sapienza University in Rome. Works in personnel for Fiat while in college. 1966 enters the Society of Jesus, 1973 ordained a priest.

Degrees from the Gregorian: 1973 bachelor’s in theology, 1975 licentiate in canon law, 1978 doctorate in canon law. From 1975 teaches canon law at the Gregorian, 1995-2004 dean of the faculty of canon law.

September 2004 appointed by John Paul rector of the Gregorian and reappointed by Benedict in 2007.

1993-2003 judge of the Roman Rota. Consultor of: Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (from 1987), the Pontifical Council for the Laity (from 1990), the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (from 1993), the Congregation for the Clergy (from 1997), the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts (from 1997), the Congregation for Bishops (from 1999), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (from 2003).

Gregorian newsletter bio March 2008 interview in Osservatore Romano

Rev. Ghirlanda has a huge bibliography of many books and more than 100 articles. His interests include how canon law relates to Church structure and life, how it applies to lay persons, religious, seminarians, associations, the hierarchy. He co-authored a 1983 commentary “De christifidelibus” on canons 204-207, which introduce and codify in law the theological question, who are the members of the Church? He edited a 1994 volume “Punti fondamentali sulla vita consacrata” (“Fundamentals of consecrated life”).

Rev. Ghirlanda caused controversy in May 2002, a time when American bishops were preparing to vote on policy to address the clerical pedophilia scandal. As dean of the canon law faculty at the Gregorian, in Civiltà Cattolica, the Jesuit bi-weekly journal, semi-official because reviewed by the Vatican Secretariat of State, he published “Doveri e diritti implicati nei case di abusi perpetrati da chierici” (“Duties and rights involved in the cases of abuse perpetrated by clerics,” May 19, 2002, 341–353). Ghirlanda wrote, according to the summary in the New York Times that:

--Catholic bishops should not turn over allegations or records of sexual abuse by priests to the civil authorities,

--a priest who is reassigned to a new parish after being treated because of a history of sexual abuse should not have his ''good reputation'' ruined by having his background revealed to the new parish and that it would be better simply not to place the priest in a new parish if the bishop lacks confidence about the priest,

--though American bishops have been sued in civil court for failing to remove abusive priests, “from a canonical point of view, the bishop or religious superior is neither morally nor legally responsible for a criminal act committed by one of his clerics,” but that if a bishop knew of accusations and failed to investigate, or if he failed to remove a known abuser from the ministry, then under canon law he would have some legal and moral responsibility.

The Times summary continues:
“[Ghirlanda’s] article takes issue with another practice that has become common for American bishops handling accusations of sexual abuse by priests. For more than 15 years, the bishops have been sending accused priests to clinics to be evaluated by therapists and to undergo treatment. Father Ghirlanda wrote that an accused priest should not be forced to take psychological tests because it is a violation of his right to privacy under canon law.

Father Ghirlanda, who is also an appeals court judge and a consultant to several Vatican agencies, said that under canon law a bishop is not responsible for the missteps of his priests. He wrote that the church was not like a corporation, and the relationship of bishop to priest was not that of employer to employee.”

The Jesuit journal America reported on Ghirlanda’s article:
“Recent statements… have underscored reservations in Rome over the direction U.S. bishops are taking as they formulate a national policy on clerical sex abuse. In particular, [Roman] officials believe it would be wrong to oblige bishops to report all sex abuse allegations to civil authorities, a policy that has been adopted by an increasing number of U.S. dioceses.

For these canon law specialists [like Ghirlanda], the crux of the issue is that bishops should be functioning as pastors, not policemen. They believe that when bishops start acting as reporting agents for the state, they compromise their own pastoral goals—one of which is to retrieve an errant priest and rehabilitate him spiritually.

[Ghirlanda] said bishops—unless clearly negligent in investigating and correcting abuse situations—generally are not morally or legally responsible for the actions of their priests. Although he was speaking from the perspective of church law, his point underlined Vatican perplexity over the U.S. legal system and the fact that dioceses have been sued because of the actions of a single cleric.

Father Ghirlanda also cautioned on three procedural matters: that it was not good pastoral practice to notify civil authorities of all priestly sex abuse accusations; that psychological testing should not be required of suspected clerical abusers; and that if he reassigns a past abuser to active ministry, a bishop should not tell parishioners of the past abuse.

Father Ghirlanda said the question of notifying civil authorities risks confusing the church’s investigative role with that of the state. “My position is this: If a bishop is questioned [by the state] he should respond. If he is not questioned, he should not report,” he said. Instead, he said, the bishop who receives a report of clerical sex abuse should conduct his own investigation, if necessary removing the accused priest quietly and temporarily from ministry. The bishop’s investigation should be undertaken with concern for the victim and the church community, but also for the accused priest, he said. “Even if a priest is guilty, the bishop remains the pastor of that priest.””

The US bishops did not accept Ghirlanda’s position. The San Francisco Chronicle reported May 19, 2002:

“Catholic bishops in the United States say they intend to continue turning over to secular authorities the names of priests accused of child sexual abuse, despite [the article by Ghirlanda].

"The bishops are determined to make sure that they don't have people who would abuse children in the priesthood," said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the associate director of communications for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "The church needs to be a safe environment for all Catholics, especially for children, and the bishops will do what has to be done to make sure it is a safe environment."

Ghirlanda's positions fly in the face of the general practice in the United States. Many bishops use psychological testing to evaluate priests, and virtually all seminaries in the United States require psychological testing of applicants. Most states -- including California -- require clergy to report allegations of child abuse to state officials for investigation, and Walsh said bishops adhere to those requirements.”

At their June 2002 meeting in Dallas the US bishops did vote to require themselves to report allegations of sexual abuse by their priests to civil authorities.

Ghirlanda’s article seemed part of a concerted Vatican effort to discourage the American bishops from adopting this policy. As summarized by Garry Wills in the New York Review of Books, August 15, 2002:

“To understand the risk involved in the Dallas strategy, one must recall the drumbeat of signals coming from Rome urging the bishops not to "give in" to the press or to prosecutors seeking to punish priests:

In February, Tarcisio Bertone, the close associate of (and occasional spokesperson for) Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [[secretary of the Congregation at the time, now the Vatican Secretary of State, the one who announced the apostolic visitation of the Legionaries in March 2009]], told the magazine 30 Giorni that the civil authority has no right to demand that a bishop turn over his own priest.

On April 23, [Pope John Paul] urged the United States cardinals in Rome to remember that offending priests may experience "the force of Christian conversion, that radical determination to turn from sin and return to God, which reaches the depths of the human soul and can work an uncommon alteration."

On April 29, Archbishop Julian Herranz, head of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, [[now retired, made cardinal in 2003, of Opus Dei]] addressing the Catholic University of Milan, said that the press in America had prodded bishops into making unwarranted settlements against the Church, which has no obligation to turn priests over to the secular authorities.

On May 16, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, often mentioned as a candidate for the papacy, at a press conference in Rome, compared the treatment of Cardinal Law to Communist trials, Decius's persecution of Christians, and the tactics of Hitler and Stalin. He said he would be prepared to go to jail rather than harm one of his priests, and that priests should be pastors, not agents of the CIA or FBI.

On May 19, Gianfranco Ghirlanda, a Jesuit canon law expert and judge on a Vatican court, the Signatura Apostolica, wrote in Civiltà Cattolica that any priest's privacy should not be invaded by a requirement to take psychological testing, and that a bishop who is convinced that an offending priest has reformed may assign him to a new parish without telling those at his new post.

On June 1, the Jesuit priest Giovanni Marchesi wrote in Civiltà Cattolica that the Pope had shown courage in publicly addressing the pedophile problem, and that the press had taken unfair advantage of his openness to indulge in "a morbid and scandal-mongering inquisitiveness." The press was trying to get even, said Father Marchesi, for the Pope's criticism of the Gulf War, rather than addressing real problems in the world, like the crisis in the Middle East.

On June 10, a favorite of the Pope, recently made a cardinal by him, the Jesuit Avery Dulles, warned the bishops not to take positions in Dallas that the Pope would just have to reverse. Dulles is not a bishop, so he did not have a vote in Dallas, but he was allowed to sit on the floor by courtesy of the bishops, and he rose to attack the Charter before the bishops voted on it—he opposed the broad definition of sexual abuse, the "adversarial" relationship the Charter would create between bishops and priests, the "unconscionable" requirement to report allegations to civil authorities, and the willingness to open diocesan files even "without legal compulsion."”

Conservatives too responded to Ghirlanda’s article:

Leon Podles , author and blogger on sex abuse in the Church, wrote on May 18, 2002:

“Children who have been abused will often become self-destructive, even to the point of suicide. If a parish is not told that a priest has committed sexual abuse, parents have no way of knowing that a child’s erratic behavior may be a sign that he has been abused. Ghirlanda places a priest’s right to a good reputation, even when it is undeserved, above the safety of children.

Ghirlanda and Herranz reveal that a clericalist mentality is present at the highest levels of the church; the laity are unimportant, the priest is everything. His rights to a career and an undeserved good reputation are to be upheld, even at the cost of children’s innocence and sometimes even their lives (remember the suicides). This poisonous clericalism is enough to make a Protestant of a Breton peasant -- and it may lead to a rupture in the American church, if Catholic parents realize that the Vatican and bishops disregard the safety of their children.”

Canon law professor Edward Peters wrote on May 30, 2002:

“The claim that bishops and religious superiors are neither morally nor judicially responsible for acts of their clergy seems difficult to reconcile with Canon 128 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law that states: “Whoever unlawfully causes harm to another by a juridical act, or indeed by any other act which is deceitful or culpable (actu dolo vel culpa posito), is obliged to repair the damage done. (British trans.)” The Americans render the operative phrase “with malice or negligence”. Either way, the canon (one, incidentally, that greatly expands the scope of ecclesiastical liability for malfeasance in office over its 1917 Code counterpart, Canon 1681) is a clear enunciation of the obligation of persons in the Church (there being no exemption for bishops in this regard) to make good harms unlawfully caused as a result of their actions or omissions.

The pertinent claim is that the some bishops (not all, but at least some) placed priests known to them to be pederasts or homosexually active in positions wherein they could and did sexually abuse minors. A man who knows his hound snaps at children must not allow such an animal to run free through the neighborhood…

Of course, in these dark days, some wish to impose to a “strict liability” standard on bishops in all priestly sex abuse cases, holding bishops financially responsible for harms caused by their priests notwithstanding the bishop’s lack of knowledge of the danger. This is wrong and unjust. Others, in cases of some genuine liability on the part of the bishop, wish to exaggerate that liability out of anger or greed. This is opportunism. Both approaches should be rejected.

But I believe it is a mistake to make the blanket claim that there is no canonical basis for episcopal liability for harms arising from priestly misconduct. There is a basis for such liability in canon law. Only a fair, case-by-case, examination of the facts will determine whether such liability is warranted in a given case, and if so, how much compensation should be awarded.”

George Weigel wrote in 2004 in “The Courage to Be Catholic” (127-8) that it was “no sin against charity” to call Ghirlanda’s positions “legalistic.” They were evidence of “a cast of mind in the Vatican that Americans find hard to understand, and that in fact makes it difficult for officials of the Holy See to come to grips with problems like the crisis of 2002 in the US… If current canon law is admirable in its assumption of innocence and in its concern to protect priests from the arbitrary exercise of ecclesiastical power, current canon law as interpreted by Father Ghirlanda and those like him is manifestly inadequate to deal with the problem of clergy sexual abuse. Something has to change.”

Another Ghirlanda Civiltà Cattolica article, “Gli Omosessuali e L’ammizzione Al Sacerdozio; Gli Aspetti Canonici” (“Homosexuals and admission to the Priesthood, Some Canonical Aspects” March 3, 2007, 436 - 449) made news in March 2007. If Ghirlanda in 2002 cautioned bishops who asked for psychological evaluation of a pedophile priest about the priest’s canonical rights, he saw a role for it in implementing the 2005 “Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies.” According to a CNS summary of the article, he said that “in applying the Vatican's directive against admission of homosexuals to the priesthood, seminary authorities should make use of psychological sciences to distinguish between ‘deep-seated’ and transitory homosexual tendencies… the use of psychology was a complex but necessary means of establishing the true nature of homosexual traits…. Psychological evaluations alone can never substitute for the informed decisions of bishops and seminary authorities, but such testing must be taken into serious consideration.”

Rev. Ghirlanda is among the most senior canon lawyers in the Church and indeed, as rector of the Gregorian, among the most senior scholars. As such, he is a spectacular appointment to an apostolic visitation that might well consider thorny canonical issues relating to a congregation and movement with a membership of men religious, consecrated women, and lay persons, and assess the academic competence of a congregation aspiring to teach and conduct many schools and universities.

At the same time, no one cheered by Cardinal Bertone’s use of the word “transparency” in his letter announcing the apostolic visitation in March is entirely happy to remember his and Ghirlanda’s signaling Vatican opposition to American bishops’ policy in May 2002.

Ghirlanda’s legal views on protecting the good name of pedophile priests in the end proved unpersuasive to the bishops and a range of Americans both conservative and liberal, who were content to see bishops cooperate with civil authorities in the matter of child abuse. Was Ghirlanda merely advocating proper due process for the accused? If so, let’s have due process in all aspects of the apostolic visitation. Will he be advocate for Legionary malefactors and for keeping their deeds private and discrete as preliminary to their carrying on with as little interruption as possible? If so, let’s have a complementary advocate on the visitation for the spiritual and physical victims of Legionary malefaction, who may well be among those who think that the Legionaries require thoroughgoing re-foundation. If George Weigel felt Ghirlanda’s interpretations of canon law “manifestly inadequate” to the crisis of 2002, will they prove adequate to the Legionary crisis of 2009, which involves not only sexual impropriety, but financial and spiritual impropriety as well?

The move of an abusive priest to a new assignment without informing those involved is itself an issue for the visitation in the US possibly to face. In 1995, a Legionary priest, Jeremiah M. Spillane, was transferring out of the Legion and into the diocese of Venice, Florida. According to the Tampa Tribune, he was recommended to the diocese as “a priest in good standing… Father Spillane has... manifested no behavioral problems that would indicate he might deal with minors in an inappropriate manner." He was assigned to a church and high school in Sarasota, Florida.

In February 1997 he was arrested for attempting to commit a lewd or lascivious act and seduction of a child by computer, after arranging over the internet to meet a 13-year-old boy for sex, though this turned out to be a police sting. Spillane pleaded no contest to the charges and was ordered into a sex offender program. Spillane remains on the Florida list of convicted sex offenders .

Legionary Father Owen Kearns expressed public shock at these events, but it was never clear how Spillane could have progressed so quickly in the techniques of predation in his comparatively short time away from the Legion.

1 comment:

  1. how can I email Fr. Gianfranco, I have a few important questions.
    Sincerely Ed ODonovan
    My email is